This year, something unexpected bloomed in M’s garden. It’s like that every year. I meet the new flowers through a text message, waiting for my time to visit, hopefully showing up before they have grown tired of waiting for me. When I finally arrive, I drink them in like water from a fire hose.
Every spring, I long to put my hands into the earth, to understand the visceral truth about soil: the darker the healthier.
While light is necessary, growth happens from the ground up.
My first and only garden was planted for me by the previous owners of a house I purchased but never felt was truly mine, a fully mature perennial garden made up of a series of beds so well planned that as one flower died, another bloomed. There was no time for mourning.
The only role left for me was weeding. My ignorance at the time, however, was such that even identifying weeds required a new education. With a dearth of teachers but a great deal of hope, I weeded the garden with administrative fervour, never allowing myself to sit idle, never stopping to just be with the beauty of my upkeep, not knowing just how quickly it would slip through my fingers.
Fifteen years later, I got to spend hours digging in the dark earth of someone else's garden, removing old roots and stirring in manure, mixing shit with soil that had lain fallow for years, the ground matted with wild trees and flowers to whom I tenderly apologized as I cut their ties, turning the soil again, uprooting more plants, then more turning and more uprooting. It seemed, finally, my education might start from the ground up, from first principles. If I could learn to ready the soil, I might learn to grow nourishment, sustenance, and beauty.
This time, although the teachers did arrive, I did not. The garden was borrowed. And like in so many of my dreams, I found myself stuck in another city, at a retreat or convention centre, my own home still at large, with no sense of how to get there. For me, home is not a going back. It’s a constant trek, like a soul endlessly walking the distance an airplane has traveled to deposit all the world’s viable lovers into fertilized territory.
As the jet stream dissipates, I am left with only clouds as guides. I cannot stop walking because there is no back to turn to.
At my current dwelling, I host two planters outside my front door. Dead grasses in one, weeds in the other, snow-burned soil in both, and I wonder if I have the strength to return to a nursery to make a choice.
Both planters require that I start from scratch. But choosing among annuals feels like choosing among ice sculptures melting in winter sunshine.
I have grown weary of starting again, of the short term. I'm tired of the recurring dream in which I am at a university or a hotel, but never home. I want the kind of return that means food, the return of worrying over bugs and working to find organic solutions to organic problems, the tending daily to something that has a greater chance of return in full bloom next year if I nurture it in this one.
Today I awoke thinking about small paintings. The kind with simple relationships -- glass and fruit, light and shadow -- the kind I can make in an hour without agonizing over worth or purpose. As I allow myself this small luxury of a future pruned down to a few hours in a single day, the inevitable question forces its way through my deliberately narrowed focus, like a daisy pushing through concrete.