I hated gardening, growing up in Gretna. I hated getting my hands dirty, getting sweaty during the three hours every summer morning I pulled my weight gathering provisions for our family for winter. I was convinced this wasn’t just my father making me work, but The Father, making me pay for Adam and Eve’s indiscretion. Thankfully, I could spend afternoons of absolution in the Neche swimming pool, or with the pages of Little Lord Fauntleroy under one of our many cottonwood trees.
On one hand, I still hate gardening. My wife is the one who tends the small front garden we have instead of lawn. On the other hand, I have been writing poems about gardening, about The Garden, the Tree of Knowledge, and the expulsion of Adam and Eve, for forty years.
Twentieth-century Mennonites were fond of this mythology, seeing the golden years in Russia/Ukraine as The Garden. The early immigrants that came in 1874 were shown the Tree of Knowledge but weren’t persuaded to eat its fruit, while those that remained ate the fruit of Knowledge and were forcibly expelled. Imagine the told-you-sos, the continuing suspicion of knowledge, and the assimilation the first wave of Mennonite immigrants to Canada experienced. Je jeleada, ye fejeada. The more you know, the more you turn away from the faith. The Taliban or Boko Haram are not the only patriarchal fanatics to seek bliss in ignorance.
In this issue, we feature excerpts from the larger works of seasoned writers Sandra Birdsell, Lloyd Ratzlaff, and Ted Dyck, and an original piece from Toronto writer, Aga Maksimowska. Snapshots of nature wonder are captured in our poetry offering, edited by Di Brandt, from bending grass and the heron’s stance in Elsie K. Neufeld’s “Willband creek,” to the mystery of fruit hanging from boughs in Leonard Neufeldt’s “Don’t ask.” Our reviews section, edited by Julienne Isaacs, covers recent published poetry, fiction, and blogs by Mennonite writers, and music by Brandon Isaak. Many thanks to our arts editor Murray Toews for his illustrations and for welcoming Gathie Falk, Lynda Toews and Mitchell Wiebe to the pages of Rhubarb.
President, Mennonite Literary Society