I’m part of Exhale, a creative community for mothers of faith. They’re doing a creativity challenge this week, and today was “Write 20 minutes.” So here are twenty minutes of my thoughts:
I’m sitting on the edge of a planter in my “office” (the parking lot of the library). I can smell the honey scent of alyssum, planted every ten inches around the bed like little guards. Those and the sunflowers are the only ones I can identify. There are some tall burgundy ones with cream-tipped petals standing head and shoulders and probably knees above the rest. I assume the others around them will catch up before long, but for now, they’re almost comically tall .
I am, if it is not manifestly clear already, not a gardener. I have killed all manner of plants—I kept African violets alive for a while—months, even— but that’s my record. I tried to grow zucchini one year. I got one plant and it produced one mutant spherical zucchini. When I mentioned this to my friend Carla over lunch at Wendy’s, she explained that I needed to have two zucchini plants at least. That makes sense. Pollination and stuff. “Sometimes you have to pollinate them yourself, too,” she told me. I looked quizzically at her and learned that plant reproduction is much more similar to mammalian reproduction than I imagined. (And that, my friends, is the story of the time I learned about zucchini sex at lunch hour over a Junior Bacon Cheeseburger and four-piece nugget with honey mustard.) I killed a cactus once. Every time I tell someone this, they’re like, “Ooooooh. You musta overwatered it.” But no. I’m quite sure I didn’t do that. I think I actually let the thing die from lack of water because I was so afraid of overwatering it. “Don’t overwater it!” This was the refrain. So I did not. It died anyhow. (Apparently you shouldn’t UNDERwater them, either.)
I think next summer is my summer. I’m in a Marco Polo chat with friends that’s been about 50% devoted to our various gardens all spring, and I think they might be able to hold my hand through the process next year. I’ve already told Andrew I’d like some raised beds. Will I like it? I have no idea. To be quite honest, gardening seems like it’s going to feel like a lot of slow work for minimal production. Not unlike parenting, I guess, but, as I’ve mentioned, I actually kind of hate mothering. I love my kids (as I am certain I will love the seedlings and sprouts and flowers) but the daily work of it just wears on me. It’s a lot of work turning a baby into a reasonable adult, and I’m not at all sure we’re going to reach that result.
I wonder if gardening is going to be another thing I commit to, like pieces of, but dislike in general. I wonder if I’m going to fail at it again. (At least I understand zucchini sex?) I am hoping there’s a difference. Back when I was 25 and growing a single mutant squash (named Lucky) while others in town were producing so much that the Food Bank in Fairbanks put out an APB: “PLEASE NO MORE ZUCCHINI,” it seemed simple enough. Dirt. Plants. Water. Sun. I didn’t even consider asking for help. Actually, I approached motherhood similarly. I knew how to child care. No problem. “Now I just gotta get me one a’ them babies, and I’m set. Diapers. Milk. Car seat. The end.”
Come to find out, community is not a peripheral part of either. I absolutely cannot do parenting without people. I go from hating motherhood to also disliking my children so fast when I don’t have other moms to tug me along. I can’t garden without community, either. (Whether or not I can garden WITH community remains to be seen. Worth a shot.)