So I have now been in Okinawa for a year. During about half of that time I have endeavored to grow vegetables. I compare the vicissitudes of the garden to my overall Okinawan experience.
Thanks to Natori san I gain the right to use a patch of land near Kina Banjo for horticultural ends
I have done much gardening in the past and so enter the project with confidence and no little arrogance.
I dig it over and plant, though admittedly late in the season, what I would plant in Europe or the USA. Beans, carrots, aubergine, peppers, some flowers, onions, tomatoes, radishes, including the mighty Daikon http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Daikon, and of course Beni Imo the famed Okinawan purple sweet potato.
Everything goes very well, plants sprouts, the weather is perfect if a little hot and then comes the typhoon. Four days of a trillion mph winds and twenty feet of rain devastate the garden. The only survivor is the Beni Imo.
I replant. More aubergine, peppers, tomatoes but now also cauliflowers and cabbage. The Benii Imo prospers.
However now we are dealing with extreme heat and despite much watering the leaves shrivels and basically everything dies – except for the Beni Imo, which just goes from strength to strength
I realize that I have got things badly wrong. The idea that the growing season should be April – September is of course misconceived. The time to grow stuff is in the winter. There remains two last great hopes. Potatoes, which I have been growing for decades and of course the Beni Imo harvest. I plant 40 seed potatoes .
Due to an exceptionally wet Fall the seed rotted in the ground and about 3 plants came up. There is always the Beni Imo.
So Yysterday I harvest the Beni Imo. The growth has been spectacular and I anticipate a pile of tubers and bring many bags in which to ship them home.
Deception! A lot of show on top but only a very few slightly wormy tubers in the soil.
I sheepishly put away my garbage bags and put the entire harvest into a small Starbucks bag. It is half full.
So has my Okinawan gardening experience been mirrored by my overall Okinawan living experience? Well er yes in as much as many preconceived ideas have proven to be wrong. In as much as constant inquisitiveness and curiosity have been the best vectors to progress. In as much as the process has been as valuable as the result.
My garden saga has basically not been a success but the pleasure of gardening and the anticipation of bounty have outshone the setbacks. This is where the gardening and living analogy stumbles for I have not only enjoyed life on the island enormously over the last year but have also met with some success.
Next year the garden will match. “G0d Almighty first planted a garden. And indeed it is the purest of human pleasures. It is the greatest refreshment to the spirits of man; without which, buildings and palaces are but gross handiworks;” Bacon