A Moment's Peace by Pearl Took

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A Moment’s Peace

"For a while Sam sat musing, and tending the fire

till the water boiled."

The Two Towers, "Of Herbs and Stewed Rabbit"

For "Beethoven’s 7th"

He sat cross-legged on the ground near the small fire. He was hunched over, elbows on knees, his left hand wrapped over his fisted right hand, chin resting in the valley between two fingers. Herbs and cut up coneys laid near at hand waiting, as was Sam, for the water in the small pan to come to a boil. Sam took in a long slow breath of the clean sweet smelling air, held it awhile in his lungs then let it seep out between slightly parted lips. The sun shone, the air was pleasantly warm, he was cooking . . . he almost felt at home.

Sam stared off at the wakening world around him. Here spring was making her presence known with flowers, tree buds, fern fronds and the smell of warming earth. He took his chin from atop his hand, reaching over to caress the soil on the underside of one of the turves he had cut to make the small fire pit. His skin looked lighter than usual against the blackness of the velvety soil. This was good earth. His fingers could feel the richness and moisture of it; his eyes could see it and his nose could smell it. Good earth. Like the Shire.

Home. Sam had tried to not think much about home but this place, this moment, carried his thoughts away. He saw his Gaffer and a young Samwise in the garden at Number Three Bag Shot Row and at the garden of Bag End. A small sandy-haired lad traipsing about after his dad, wanting to be like him, to know everything he knew about the earth and how to help it work its magic.

"This here plant, Sammy-lad, be a weed. So we pulls it out and toss it in the barrow. Ya look careful at it, Sam. Ya learn its leaves, its feel, its smell so as to always know it so as to get rid o’ it. Now, dig around in the soil about it and work it out the ground." His Gaffer turned away to his own task of setting onions.

"Why’s it a weed, Dad? It don’t look no different than most the other plants." Sam didn’t want to pull up the small innocent looking plant, so he just sat there in the tilled soil of the garden staring at it.

" ‘Tis a weed ‘cause it be a weed. Yank it up, Sam-lad and get on with gettin’ rid o’ the others what be like it." Gaffer Gamgee looked over at his boy, the only one of his brood who wished to have his life’s work be gardening. All the Gamgees knew how to grow things, but that wasn’t wanting to be a gardener. He set down his hoe, walked over to his son and squatted down to be more at the lad’s level. " ‘Tis a weed, lad, ‘cause it be a-growin’ where we don’t want it a-growin’."

"But . . . but it’s a nice little plant, Dad. It’s not got no thorns, nor prickles; it don’t smell bad and it can’t be po . . . po . . . poi . . ."

"Poisonous, Sammy-lad."

"Poi-son-us, yes sir. Can’t be that or ya wouldn’t be wantin’ me touchin’ it. So why don’t we want it?"

"We can’t eat it none, ‘tis too tough and stringy. It don’t make pretty flowers neither. And Sammy, here look about with me."

The father and son got up and started to walk about the garden, the Gaffer pointing out every single one of the weeds like the ones he wanted Sam to pull from the garden. "There be lots o’ them, Dad," the youngster said after a few minutes.

"Aye." Ham Gamgee once again squatted down to his son’s eye level. "Aye you’re dead on with seein’ that, Sam-lad. That be the biggest reason o’ all for pullin’ ‘em up and tossin’ ‘em out." The Gaffer gestured broadly with a sweep of his arm. "Soon, soon there’d be no room for the plants we do want to be growing; the vegetables and the pretty flowers." He looked back at the boy and laid a hand on a small shoulder. "It be with the plants as with the hobbits, Sammy-lad, though ya don’t go throwin’ the bad hobbits in the barrow then onta the compost. But just like there be hobbits what don’t seem good for anythin’ much, like the miller’s lad, Ted, and that Sackville-Baggins lad, Lotho, ‘tis same with the plants. There be bad plants and good plants, my lad, but we can be rid o’ the bad plants so as they don’t mess up life for the good ones."

Sammy watched as his Dad stood up, went over to the tilled soil of the vegetable garden, stooped to get a handful of earth and returned.

"Hold out yer hand." Sam did and his Gaffer placed a semi-balled up lump of soil in it. "Feel it, Sam. Get to know how it feels, looks, smells, even a bit o’ how it tastes. This, lad, this is good earth. There be a few plants what like sandier soil, but ya can grow most anythin’ in this soil, my lad."

The lump of soil felt cool and good in his small hand, moist and heavy for how small it was. And it was black, black as the night itself. "Good earth," the boy whispered as the wonder of it filled him.

" ‘Tis our blessin’, Sammy-lad. The Shire’s blessin’ to have such good earth."

Sam shook his head to be rid of the vision. It hadn’t been a dream, he knew he hadn’t nodded off. He again caressed the soil of the turves. He loved that feeling. It brought peace to his weary heart and mind. Home. Back home in the Shire and here in a land so very far away there were green and growing things. There were flowers, there were herbs, there were even weeds. He smiled to himself before turning a grim eye to the east. They would make it, he and Mr. Frodo. They would make it because they had to. There was bad in this world and there was good. He had been before the Black Gates. He had seen the dead dirt. They couldn’t let that happen to any more of the good earth.


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