The Manspreaders of the Garden
Its name is Buttercup. It’s an heirloom which means the taste of its fruits are the only reason you need to grow it in your garden. In the fall, Buttercup will leave behind a number of round dark green, winter squash that have the sweetest, silkiest texture and a rich, dry flavor that is my favorite. I have to admit, I get a little excited when Buttercup winter squash shows up at the local grocery store. I know it’s only there for a couple of weeks, in the fall. It comes into the store after the leaves start to turn colors and right before the ice lays down on everything at night, touching it with frost. Then, just as quickly as the Buttercup came, it disappears, until next year. So, I try not to buy more than I can eat, which is hard, as I sort through the squash bin pulling out my well-known favorite.
This year I planted Buttercup in my garden, squishing the hills closer together to fit in a few extra seeds. I haven’t done this in a handful of years because winter squash is a long-term investment. It takes space in my garden for the whole summer, no harvests, no fruits, just growing and growing until it wilts and says, “I’m exhausted, I’m done, I’m going to rest until next year.” Then, I pick the fruits and relish them for a couple of weeks before we start again next spring. So, I usually don’t grow Buttercup because it takes up so much room. But this year, the seeds made their presence known when I was ordering and so they are now growing in my garden too.
We had a heatwave this past weekend and when I saw it coming, I knew what I needed to do. The warm weather seeds like to germinate when the sunshine comes out in full force. Buttercup, cucumbers, beans, and zucchini all went into the garden to get ready for the heat. Heat is an activator, a catalyst and it makes plants flourish, especially in the spring. And, this heatwave was no exception. In the two days it was here, everything grew. By inches. It was like watching a time lapse film, except in real life. I could almost see the plants changing right before my eyes.
And so, when I saw the Buttercup leaves coming up through the dirt, I stopped in my tracks. They were HUGE, in a mysterious kind of way, almost as large as my hand. “What is happening!?” I said out loud, shaking my head in disbelief. What else is under there? I thought. How is it possible all that comes from the seeds I put in, which are a small fraction of the size of the plant that was now emerging. Now I admit the squash seeds are fun to plant because they are jumbo sized in comparison to other seeds. They are about the size of my whole fingernail, they are thick and a clean off-white color. They feel a little bit like pressed cardboard as I put them into the dirt. It was easy to think that some of them wouldn’t grow, because, how do you get life from pressed cardboard? But, while Buttercup seeds are one of the larger seeds I planted this year, that did not prepare me for the plants that emerged. So, there I was, in my garden just staring at them trying to fully register what I was seeing, before I turned around, and ran.
I ran inside and I got my sweetheart, pulling him lightly by the sleeve. “You have got to come look at this.” I exclaimed, dragging him away from his work, prioritizing the magic in my garden to anything he might be doing right then. Pointing I said, “I swear these weren’t here a minute ago.” We both just stared at them, “They are huge! And, it’s like they’re growing right before my eyes!” And they were, pushing, kicking and burst out of the dirt. Then, he smiled in that playful smile he does. “They are manspreading.” He said, with a pause so I could take in the meaning of his words. “Squash are manspreaders, and those guys are the biggest ones!” He said. I laughed because it was absolutely true. Squash are manspreaders, like the guy on the bus who sits with his knees wide apart, claiming the space around him without apology, or even awareness of what he is doing.
Now this has become an inside joke. “How are the manspreaders doing?” My sweetheart will ask, and I will laugh. “They are annoying! They just keep claiming more and more space and don’t seem to care at all.” I say. “That sounds like them….” He responds, and there is something right between us, in this back and forth. We are growing food and growing our shared experiences and inside jokes too. The garden is part of our lives in a way that it hasn’t been in the past. This makes me smile even as so many things seem turned upside down in the world right now.
This year, much like the squash is spreading out into the garden, the garden as a whole is also spreading out and claiming its spot in our lives and in our relationship too. The garden’s constancy, shared purpose and of course the comic relief is absolutely priceless right now. It is grounding and as we both continue to watch it grow, we are in a way growing with it too. And, for this, I am incredibly grateful.