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.)

Published by robininalaska

Robin Chapman is a part-time writer, editor, and birth photographer and a full-time imperfect mama, wife, Jesus follower, and normalizer of failure. She’s trying hard to learn how to do this motherhood thing in a way that doesn’t land the whole family in intensive therapy. She has a heart for helping other mamas buried in the little years with hope, humor, and solidarity. You can find her hiding out in the bathroom with an iced dirty chai, writing and editing and making spreadsheets for KindredMom.com where she is a cheerleader for mamas, or online looking for grace in her mundane and weird life. She lives in Fairbanks, Alaska with her four delightful (crazy) kids—some homeschooled, some public schooled, some too young for school at all—and her ridiculously good looking husband, Andrew.

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