I am the garden, and the garden is me.
I fell apart the other day. Fell. Apart.
Sunday started innocuously enough. Up and at ‘em, putter, putter, mocha, putter, putter. At some point, mid-morning, I was standing in a doorway, and I said to Todd that I was disappointed in the garden this year. He asked why, and I said, “It’s just failing. I’m failing.”
And then it hit me. I am not just disappointed, I am sad about the garden. The squash crop has been lost to powdery mildew. I grew a stupid number of peppers that I’m never going to eat. (Did you know that Anaheim Peppers get REALLY hot if they stay on the bush long enough to turn red? Well, they do. Trust me). Tomatoes are falling on the ground because I am not harvesting. The beans on the umbrellas in front were barely growing because I didn’t realize they were on a bad watering valve. Now they are getting tough before I can get them off the vine. The carrot tops are tearing off when I try to pull them, but I’m too lazy to go get a tool to dig them out. I wonder if they are just there in the ground, rotting away because I haven’t taken the time to deal? I didn’t get water back on the artichokes soon enough, so there won’t be a fall crop. Strawberries are rotting where they are growing, because I couldn’t really be bothered to go out and pick them, because there are only a few at a time.
But from all appearances, it remains amazing. A new friend came over the other day – he had no idea that I was even a gardener. He was blown away. “Magnificent! This is AMAZING!” He and his wife were impressed and flattering to me. He wants me to help him. His enthusiasm is contagious. I thought “Oh, yeah, to the untrained eye, this is probably still amazing.”
So I stood there, in the doorway, and I started to tear up. And then I started to cry. And then I started to sob. And Todd asked me why I was crying, and I told him I missed my dad.
And then I realized that I am the garden. I seem great. I am in control. I’m not crying much. I am taking really good care of my mom. Give a eulogy at the funeral? Check. Clear out the tools? Check. Get the legal stuff straightened out? Check. Make sure mom is okay? Check. Get a new lawyer? Check. I’m on it. I’m good. Kind of amazing, even. At least that is what people are telling me. “You are so strong.” “You are amazing.” “I would be a mess.” “How do you do it?”
But I’m not okay. Over half of my hair has fallen out. (No, there are no underlying medical issues. We checked. It’s called Telogen Effluvium: Sudden drastic hair loss caused by shock or trauma). The house looks like a bomb went off. I’ve had the same list of things to do for a month. Nothing on it is getting done. I’ve hit a pole while parking not once, but twice, so my car is all scratched up. I have bills overdue, but can’t seem to be bothered to pay them. Or even ask Todd to pay them. I sit and watch stupid TV and I’m playing Sudoku, and I can’t remember what anyone just said to me.
I am the garden.
It’s the season for really paying attention, and taking good care. But I haven’t. I am shut down, and not taking care.
But then the dam broke. I was fairly certain that if I ever started to cry over the loss of my dad, I would never stop. But I was wrong. I cried. Then I stopped. Then I cried again, then I stopped. Then I went outside and started to cry again, sitting on a hose-reel box, and the neighbor called over the fence to make sure I was okay.
No. No, I’m not okay. But now that the dam has broken, I’ve come to realize that I don’t have to be perfect, or strong, or take care of every little thing. I can let it go. I will be alright. Things will be alright. And the garden will be alright. There is no irreparable harm being done. No sense being disappointed. Or rather, it’s okay to be disappointed. It’s been a shitty summer. I’m entitled to not grow 500 pounds of food this year. It’s just a number, and it doesn’t matter. Nothing is forever. Not the good, not the bad, not the grief, not the dried up crops.
There is tomorrow. And there is another season coming. And on that, I stood up, and went to pull the long-neglected squash plants.