So much of writing is just waiting. As much for yourself as for anyone. You write something, living inside it for however long it takes to draft, and then you have to wait for your mind to catch up with what you’ve done—a long slog through what you intended to do, and what you fear you might have failed at.
Then there is waiting for other people, which can actually be a good distraction for waiting out the clarity of your own brain. Things that feel like punishment, in art, are often part of the reward.
All this to say, I often find myself in the position of needing a distraction, and that is why I write so much, here about my garden: as a way to teach myself to direct my thoughts to a new, less vexing source. It’s the same reason I garden at all, in addition to the joy of seeing new life in its freshest, tenderest form. Yesterday, I spent an hour pulling weeds and thinning greens on the edge of bolting (I’m actually happy to let a number of mustard greens go to seed, because they’re pretty, and feed the bees, and I can collect the seeds. But I don’t need the garden to be quite so choked by them), and then carrying armfuls of those weeds out of the yard. My hands were muddy all morning, and while I was in that process, it was all I thought about: how to help things grow, what they smelled like, whether I could reach the edge of a tenacious root with my fingertips.
For the past few years, January has been weirdly warm, while February has plunged us back into night-times of hard freeze, which makes it a bit tricky to plan out your plantings. But this year, it seems like February is going to be easygoing, and I’m watching the flower seedlings, putting in squash, and generally feeling nervous that the summer heat is going to throttle me. Is this a complaint or a brag? I honestly don’t know, but I do want all my poppies to pop. I want a big lush bed of flowers, I want to smell crushed hard candy in the air, I want the hummingbirds to drink, once more, from the hose.
We are all waiting. We don’t even know exactly what kind of life we are waiting for, except that it will not be this. And I am, I know, not alone in worrying that if I could go out and see people—if the threat of disease were to dissipate, if we all got vaccinated and the virus stopped mutating at such an alarming rate, if everything stopped sounding so much like science fiction—that I would not want to anymore. There is a sense that while we were waiting, we stopped being the people we were, or wanting the things we used to want. Not as an evolution, but simply as a loss. I feel so normal, and then there are moments when I think, I cannot stand this one more second. And then I think, stand what? Takeout lunch? Sitting in the yard, on a nice afternoon? Living in my house and watching television?
Tomorrow is Dave’s birthday, which is an even better distraction than the garden. Today I will poach the pears I bought, and tomorrow I will bake them into an almond tart, and then the day after that will come too, and they will all keep coming, with the hummingbirds, and with the deafening heat of the summer.