Here is my current fragility: I am breaking down about elements of my environment beyond my control. The clearest example of this is the cars that park in front of our house. Our house is on a corner lot, so we have a lot of parking, and sometimes a neighbor or two will use one of those spots because they don’t want to turn around or…who knows. This is perfectly legal, and to any sane mind, not a big deal. But somehow it grates at me. I don’t bother them about it, but I let it stress me out. Why do I do this? Who can say.
Perhaps it’s because I can’t control the birds who treat my garden like a carnival of delights. I’m trying to nurture some of my sunflower seedlings past infancy—something which would also benefit the birds!—but instead of waiting for the plants to grow wide faces full of seeds and enormous (apparently delicious) leaves, they keep snipping them off at the top, as soon as they poke through the ground. The birds do not pass the marshmallow test.
But why do the birds bother me? Some of the sunflowers will probably pass beneath their notice, and my ranunculi are starting to bloom unhindered; I have many poppies, waiting for their time. But the sunflowers, the sunflowers, why can’t I protect the sunflowers? Why can’t I use my clever human hands to erect some obstacle course the birds won’t circumvent? At the moment, my garden is basically a folk horror story, full of sticks stuck upright in the ground like pikes, which I keep adding to whenever I see another seedling. It doesn’t really seem to help, but it keeps me occupied, like when you cover a dog treat in peanut butter and stick it inside a Kong toy.
Of course the birds bother me because I can control nothing, and that is just the way life is. Gardening in the desert becomes a convenient metaphor, because it’s a slightly absurd endeavor to begin with. You have to pour so much water into the ground to make it work. Any success is hard won, and then the birds show up as nature’s avatar, zipping around with tiny hearts of triumph to explain that there is never just one obstacle to things. There is the frying pan, but then also, the fire.
The cars in front of my house are surely good for me, because they remind me that there are other people in the world, who have different priorities, which are not actually wrong. It’s not wrong for my neighbors to want to park easily! Why is that so hard for me to understand? I have been at home for too long, like most of us, reduced to peering over my fence and sneaking glances out the window, waiting for the world to encroach. And it will. But maybe with time I will remember that I encroach too, and that when it’s safe, we can all share space again, on city streets and in department stores, not in a nightmare, but in reality, calmly mingling, brushing up to one another and brushing away again without harm.