As a child, my favorite book was Frances Hodgson Burnett’s “The Secret Garden.” My mother doesn’t recall this moment, but she bribed me with it. For the millionth time, I was unhappy, crying, and packing my backpack with clothes, dolls and books. I was running away. She offered to read another chapter if I would stop shoving everything except the horrid red and white striped shorts in my bag. I refused and continued crying and stuffing. My mother sat on the floor of my room and started reading. Still angry and tearful, I yanked open my underwear drawer and tried to pick out the ones I liked the best for my solo adventure, but the words kept drawing me in. My motions slowed, I couldn’t concentrate, I was mesmerized. After a few more stints of frantic packing and attempts to ignore, I found myself sitting. Still. Listening. Stopped in time.
“Please, may I have a bit of earth?”
Twenty two years later, I have my bit of earth called The Fertile Crescent. And it stops me still in my tracks when every part of my being screams, “Run!”
I make the rounds every night. I’ve been weeding on a daily basis for the past four years. There aren’t many left, but creeping charlie grows underground, and the back “yard” is no longer a yard, rather a festival of weeds that Gay Boyfriend doesn’t deem fit to deal with. I only find weeds on the inside of the concrete border and on the back of the fence. But it’s satisfying nonetheless to pluck them one by one, when years before it was sweeping handfuls just to keep them from choking out the plants. After I check the weeds, I tend to the vines. The Fertile Crescent is small, so I grow UP. Tendrils seeking sunlight get trained toward string, trellises or fence posts. Tomatoes are staked and gently tied to their supports. Green twine, which ends up bleached by the sun, is my weapon of control.
Frankly, I don’t know about the control part. As with every area of my life, I have little control. Sun comes and goes; rain either in a deluge or drought. But my small attempts with green twine invoke a sense of stability, no matter how fleeting or delusional that may be. I may or may not be winning this conversation with Mother Nature, but I’m not even sure I’m trying to win anymore. I just do what I think I should and leave the rest up to The Universe.
This year’s garden has been deemed the best yet. It’s a jungle. My garden used to be so tame. Things were “where they were supposed to be.” I had tomato cages and “sections” of things like beets and carrots. I pruned and trimmed; I ruthlessly thinned. I am no longer so rigid. I let things grow wild. The squash and zucchini got some sort of white powder on them. I don’t care. They were still producing, why bother worrying about it? I’ve eaten more squash and zucchini in the last month than I ever have in my life. (Recipes to follow.) The beans grew up the trellis and attached themselves to the electrical line above the garage. What’s the worst that could happen? They get electrocuted through some sort of strange surge? That would be fun to watch. Gay Boyfriend cleaned up the bushes and trimmed away the vine that was shading the lettuce. I thought it would burn in the sun. Turns out, the lettuce kind of likes it. And even if it didn’t, what difference would it make? I’m letting it be what it’s supposed to be. One Grand Experiment. Which is what life is most days. We do the best we can, right? We experiment with actions and reactions. Some of them work to our advantage and some of them don’t. We try on attitudes and behaviors and hope for the best, sticking with the ones that serve us, whether they are healthy or not. I choose to be wild. I choose to be untamed. I choose to let it go. Because in the big scheme of things, I have so little control over anything in my life or the lives of others, that it’s silly to try to control. Be wild. Always be wild. Even for a little bit.
I’ve been searching for something. It lives in the dirt, or maybe it grows from the dirt, or perhaps dirt is just part of the element that I’m looking for.
- Earth or soil.
- Filthy or soiling substance.
- Mud, Dust. Excrement.
- Squalid or filthy condition.
- One that is mean, contemptible, or vile.
- Obscene language or subject matter.
- Malicious or scandalous gossip.
- Information that embarrasses or accuses.
- Unethical behavior or practices; corruption.
- Material, such as gravel or slap, from which metal is extracted in mining.
I’m only seeking as it pertains to number one. And I’m perplexed that two through seven seem to have a negative tone. I think of dirt fondly. I adore how it crawls under my fingernails, makes its way to my cheeks and hair; how it stains my dresses and squishes underfoot. How is that squalid, or filthy, or obscene? My favorite state is dirty, windswept, and sunburned. That’s when I feel the most whole.