If My Rhubarb Can Thrive

By Donna Frischknecht Jackson

I didn’t think the rhubarb I planted would survive — let only thrive. But much to my surprise, thriving is what they’re doing. The plants have been through a lot. Season after season they have been ravaged by pesky beetles. There has been many summer mornings, as the fog hung low in the valley and my feet squished through the tall grass wet with dew, that I would tend to the rhubarb, pulling the insects off as they happily chomped lacelike patterns into the leaves.

The abundance of rhubarb that I cradled in my arms was more than just future pies — the stalks were God whispers, reassuring me that I, too, can thrive. — Donna Frischknecht Jackson (Rupert, Vermont)

As I did, I would gaze at the scenery around me, allowing a surge of gratitude to distract me from the squeamishness of touching the insects. In those moments, I couldn’t help but be in awe as to how God was guiding me, answering a childhood prayer to live on a farm in New England.

My husband reminds me that I can’t call our Vermont home a farm if we don’t have outbuildings or animals. In my mind, though, I see the vision. I see the possibilities of what can be. I see the goats. I see the chickens. I see the pond. I see the cherry tree. I see it.

I will admit, though, that lately that clear picture of a farm is fading with each passing day. Darn those passing days. They seem to be sprinting past me, eager to get to the year-end finish line. I’m not ready for the race to be over. I have a dream inside that has been waiting for far too long to become a reality.

But for the first time in my life I find myself wondering could it be that some dreams ought to remain just that: Dreams never to see the light of day? Dreams that I will never know how God intended for them to be born and bless the world?

I wonder what happened to “Donna the risktaker”? What happened to the girl who challenged naysayers and took all those “no’s” as a challenge to be proved wrong? What happened to the person who would say to all those impossibilities looming before me that all things were possible if I only believed?

My dreams seem to be withering, but my rhubarb is thriving.

This morning I harvested the last of it for the season. By the time I was done, I had two armfuls full of green and pinkish-red stalks, some averaging more than 16 inches long. My first thought was what was I going to do with all of this rhubarb? There are just so many pies one can eat. There is just so much rhubarb jam, relish, sauce that one can consume.

The decision to plant rhubarb wasn’t because of my love for it — nor my husband’s. He won’t eat anything with rhubarb in it, thus, why I worry about all those pies as I turn my attention to how my jeans are fitting.

I planted the rhubarb really for my dad. I remember the stories of how rhubarb pie was one of his favorites that his mom would make when he was growing up on a farm in the Swiss Alps. The picture this brings to mind is so bucolic. But I bet there were beetles to pluck off the leaves as well. I bet there were days of clouds. I bet there was a time or two when perhaps my grandmother wondered how to slow down those days sprinting by as she harvested her rhubarb.

As I walked back to the house, I found myself cradling the abundance of rhubarb in my arms. Cradling the stalks because in that moment they were more than just future pies. The stalks were stories of a Swiss grandmother making pies on farm surrounded by snowcapped mountains. They were that aching in my heart to see my parents again as COVID-19 has kept us apart for months — them in New Jersey and me in Vermont. They were a vision of a farm that I once saw so clearly that now seemed to be slipping away. The stalks I cradled were God whispers, assuring me that God was still nurturing me, plucking off all those pesky self-doubts and negative messages of the world that keep chomping away at my dreams.

My rhubarb is thriving. And so will my dreams.

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