Listen. To garden is to adventure (that is, to venture, adventurously. To verb the endeavor of excitement). It is to relinquish one’s self to the will of the world. There is probably a more uptight version of gardening, wherein one assert’s one’s own will more stridently, but that is not my way. Mine is to walk out into my small patch of land and watch fifteen doves freak out and fly up into the trees. To throw handfuls of seeds one upon the other upon the other so I’m not totally sure what I’ve planted where sometimes, or what will appear. To pull up a bunch of pre-bloom poppies because I couldn’t figure out what they were, and then figure it out, and be a bit sad.
It is trial and error. Life is. Letting go of expectation in the garden helps me deal with the larger facts a little better.
Why do I bring this up? Well. Remember the poppies? How I thought they were maybe horseradish or some other mysterious thing, plaguing me, laughing at me with their refusal to bloom or seed or reveal themselves in any meaningful way? And then I killed them, and was (as aforementioned) sad?
So, that happened. Then, a while ago I noticed that one of these poppies had in fact survived in a different patch of garden, hidden among the pea shoots. I watched it, and talked to it a little, and watered it a lot. It got taller. In the meantime, a totally different kind of white and pink poppy began blooming, and I went into ecstasies, and indeed these ecstasies continue to this very day, but I also kept my eye on the tall poppy, the one I recognized, the one I had not previously known.
It developed one bud, and then two. I watched the larger one as it (sorry for this end rhyme) grew.
And today, in a glory of black-cherry color, it has bloomed in my garden. It will likely only last a day. Its tissue paper petals will perhaps wilt when I water around it, though I will try to protect them. But it is there, it is alive, a reminder of the seeds I planted months and months and months ago; the seeds which were so tiny that many rolled around in my palm and then fell off and were lost in strange places. Seeds which were indistinguishable from the dirt where they were sowed, and thus were buried too shallowly or too deep. One of these seeds, which you would have flicked off your sleeve if you saw it there, taking it for dust, grew roots and stems and leaves and now flowers. It cleverly disguised itself through the period of my predatory confusion, when I pulled up all those others. It grew and grew and now it’s there and soon it will be gone, and this is my garden, my weird little garden, where the plan of not-planning has worked better than any more careful arrangement I’ve tried, where the sunflowers are taller than I am and the rapacious finches flutter around and nest in the kale and the primroses smell like well-steeped tea, and you know, when I was sixteen I would’ve laughed and laughed at myself now and my love for this garden, so quotidian, so suburban, so expected, but I also think I would’ve marveled when the new shoots came up from the soil, because the earth’s plans are always ongoing.
The poppy was a mystery and now it is a flower, and that’s a worthwhile transformation, which is something I wish for all of us.