You Can’t Rush Asparagus

The first asparagus I ever tasted from my garden.

I miss exactly two things about living in New York City: my friends and my asparagus patch.

Over the seventeen years that I called NYC home, I lived in three boroughs, one house, and six apartments. The last abode, which my family and I moved from a year ago, was a modest two bedroom with a small backyard. This may not seem like a big deal for those who have never lived in New York, but let me assure you, having access to any outdoor space at all in NYC is a huge privilege and one that I did not take for granted. I gardened the crap out of that yard and had some pretty delicious fruits and veg as a result.

The shining jewel of my urban gardening crown was without a doubt my asparagus patch. I started it from seed at the back edge of our tiny yard mostly as a way of trying to build patience, something I struggle with, especially as a parent. It takes three years for an asparagus patch started from seed to yield a real harvest, so I figured if I could cultivate a vegetable with that much patience, surely I could cultivate patience in myself as well.

I was also stealing a page directly from Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle in which she writes, “In my adult life I have dug asparagus beds into the property of every house I’ve owned, and some I rented–even tiny urban lots and student ghettoes–always leaving behind a vegetable legacy waving in the wake…” Preach, Barbara!

I am also a perennial rusher (Catch that…perennial? Sorry, I can’t resist a gardening pun), and growing asparagus seemed like a helpful tool in getting me to slow down and become more comfortable with long periods where not much seems to be happening. Typically, prolonged waiting makes me super anxious, and I wanted to get to the bottom of what that was about. So with all that in mind, I started my sweet little patch.

Growing asparagus was a slow process and beautiful to behold. Prior to it, I had no idea what asparagus actually looked like as it grew, how tall it got, the feathery splendor of its post-harvest foliage. And oh, the taste. The taste! It was nothing like what I had ever bought at the grocery store. It redefined asparagus. It was the physical embodiment of green, of sun, of tenderness and light. It was sublime.

And then, after one small but stupendous harvest, we moved.

We said goodbye to our urban homestead to put down roots in greener pastures (See what I mean with the garden puns? They are just so easy!), but before leaving NYC for the Hudson Valley, I made sure to save some seeds from that first/last harvest, so that I could start a new patch once we moved.

A handful of seeds saved after that first/last harvest.

Although I was tempted to plant them last year during the first spring in our new home, I resisted the urge and waited. I am very glad that I did because I have now witnessed each season in our new digs and have a better understanding of the terrain, both literally and metaphorically. It took a lot for me to not rush into starting a new patch (which was supposed to be all about not rushing), but I managed, and I’m really freaking proud of that. I allowed myself that most valuable and precious element which asparagus knows by heart: time.

Often in yoga, like in gardening, we refer to the five elements: earth, water, wind, air, and fire. Some combination of these things is responsible for practically all life on earth, but it does seem to me that time itself is a crucial missing element, without which nothing much can occur. Time is what gives us real, lived experience. Time is what gives us understanding. Time is what allows the alchemy of life to do its thing. Time is what it takes to grow asparagus from seed to harvest.

I am trying hard to focus more on how I experience time both when I teach and practice yoga. I am trying to respect it more as an element in its own right, and one that is perhaps the most powerful of all. Time is always and forever happening right now, and yet it is never in a rush.

I’m trying to let myself live right in the middle of time, a conscious participant in its perpetual unfolding. I’m finding that it is not as easy as it sounds, but that it is quite possibly one of the highest and most profound callings that we can ever attempt to answer.

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