I took a master gardening class years ago. I took it after I was fired from a housesitting gig for killing all the plants and before I started my gardening business. I still consult my Master Gardening Manual regularly, its pages soft with dirt and turned corners.
Gardening is meant for writers. From the poetic words like meristem and apical and brassica to the generous metaphors in tending, troubleshooting, growth, harvest and nourishment.
I saw David Sedaris read this week. I went with my friend after we were offered tickets one hour before he was to take stage. We sat high in the balcony and listened to his familiar cadence deliver hilarious and shocking words. I noticed two things. First, when a person is funny, it gives their audience permission to laugh at anything, even the serious and sad stuff. And it isn’t inappropriate to laugh at serious and sad stuff. It’s a legitimate reaction to the discomfort of big feelings. Two, I need to read more books and look at more art. When another shares their genius, an energy field is cast. It’s contagious in the most inspiring way.
I ordered a new computer yesterday. Mine is slowly croaking, keyboard and track pad kaput and the function straining at the smallest requests. Ruby says it sounds like it is sighing all the time. Yesterday afternoon I was on the mac help chat thing with Claire, trying to decide between a new or refurbished computer. I think those chat windows were made for moms. If I’d had to make a phone call, my kids would have immediately been starving, in great need of a glue stick from the top shelf and writhing from some ailment that required lavender oil and a bandaid. The chat allows me to get some questions answered while Ruby summits my body and Margot choreographs a jumprope routine to Frosty The Snowman in the kitchen.
October and September were bright and warm. Our kids ran barefoot on Halloween afternoon, a day that is famously cold around here. Deciduous trees held color for over a month, sharing a continual shower of tumeric and cayenne leaves. And then, in just one day, the temperature dropped to the single digits, all the leaves curled into themselves and jumped to the ground. It snowed.
Acquiring the skill to detect a nutrient imbalance in the garden is like a magic portal into the Earth’s growth rings. We get to watch carbon and nitrogen be neighborly and productive when in harmony and wither when fighting for space. We can sprinkle blood meal or toss coffee grounds to mend tension. We can sweep fallen leaves atop tucked-in garlic cloves as a party invitation for worms and leaf mold. And even with the best love and attention, we can witness disease throw down its trump card. Even science is an unpredictable mystery.
My youngest daughter turns five this weekend. She is the happiest person I know, skipping and whistling and wanting to read just one more book. She always grabs two cheese sticks at the grocery store, asks for an extra sticker from the bank teller, collects two rocks so her sister can have one of everything she gets. She has a fierce temper when her cut snowflakes don’t turn out as she’d hoped and an equally fierce recovery — one mama hug and it’s all fixed. I wish my embrace would have that impact forevermore.
She only likes tights and leggings, nothing “shakey” on her legs. She draws voraciously — pictures of worms thinking about snow storms and pictures of our family as mice on a mountain. She eats three breakfasts and doesn’t care for dinner. She likes dolphins, horses, skiing, purple, braids, gymnastics, cuddling chickens, riding bikes, eating ice and impressing her sister.
On the nights she doesn’t climb into our bed and take up space like one of those plastic capsules that expands into a sponge seahorse when in contact with water, she sneaks over to my side of the bed and whisper yells MAMA one inch from my sleeping face. I startle awake. What honey? I ask. I was just wondering. What did we have for dinner? I can’t remember.
There was more I had wanted to do in the garden before the ground froze. Now that to-do list is complete, no matter the items finished. In a world where we can control and manage so much, I appreciate things like seasons and birthdays that exist no matter our plans. I now turn my attention to a kitty butterfly cake and a tea party for five little girls and their favorite dolls. (I’ve always wanted to make miniature food for stuffed deer, ducks and Elsas)
The 2014 growing season was was difficult in pole beans and tomatoes; in a daughter who grew toward five years alive with feats like newborn-style sleep patterns, needing to toss her clothes all about the house to find what she was looking for and “decorating her sheets with tattoos.” The 2014 growing season was fantastic in beets, cabbage, carrots, kale and tomatillos; in a daughter who grew toward five years alive with accomplishments like riding a bike, growing her hair long enough for a side braid and managing to breathe joy into every living creature near her.
Beautifully written, as always! I have a daughter turning 5 soon also, and it’s neat to see how much our girls share and how different they are. Raising children is much like tending a garden, some things you can control, others you can’t, and it’s all a beautifully, messy, tough, rewarding process.