Sam Gamgee’s Happy Place

“Where there’s life, there’s hope.” –The Gaffer Gamgee

I went for a barefoot walk in the garden this morning. I felt very Hobbit-like. Nobody was up yet at 6:00 AM except for my neighbor, Mark, out watering his garden and hissing at the deer. (Even though we live in town the deer creep down from the hills and try to eat our veggies.)

There’s something so peaceful and beautiful about a little backyard garden on a summer’s morning, with the birds chirping gently, almost sleepily. I pulled some peas off the vine and nibbled on them while I inspected everything in the quiet. The taste of sugar snaps are far sweeter than the horrible breakfast cereal I used to gorge on when I was a boy. These peas, that my son planted from seeds, are now seven feet tall and bursting with fruit. The kids go out every day and pluck them off the vines. It’s such a great way to get young ones to eat vegetables.

My Purple Cherokee tomatoes are looking good despite the heinously cold spring and early summer we’ve been having. These heirloom tomatoes are almost as good as Brandywines, but seem to tolerate the Pacific Northwest cold a little better. The rest of the country has been having record heat waves, but here it’s been record cold. The weather reminds me of a trip my wife and I took to England fifteen years ago where it didn’t get above sixty-eight degrees for the entire month of July.

The strawberries I planted in wine barrels are starting to put out little white flowers. The broccoli is getting big and will be ready to eat soon. The lettuce bed is so thick with lettuces we can hardly eat it fast enough. It’s all heirloom: speckled Flashy Trout’s Back lettuce and Grandpa Admire’s, and something so deep purple in color it looks like the color of Spanish Garnacha wine. I’ve let some of these plants go to seed, and they tower over the others like lettuce skyscrapers with their intricate and fantastical seed heads about to flower.

I sit down and look around for a little bit. Onions, basil, cucumbers, zucchini. They all look healthy. I can’t wait to eat them! I think about Sam Gamgee and how, when he and Frodo are in Mordor, the son of the Old Gaffer imagines himself back in the gardens at Bag End. Even when he’s asleep he dreams he’s putting in a good hard day’s work in his own little vegetable beds. It’s his happy place. And when you sit in your own small garden on a summer morning like this you can understand why.It doesn’t really take that much effort to make a little backyard garden. All you need is some dirt and some seeds. Stuff wants to grow.

Lord of the Rings trivia: When Sam Gamgee and Rosie Cotton got married, they changed their last name to “Gardner” and started a long line of Hobbit children (thirteen of them!) to make the Shire grow with life.