If you have to ask you’ll never know

My body has been a confusion to me lately. For lots of reasons, but most recently I’ve been sick (not COVID), and though I have medicine for it, and it’s getting better, the symptoms keep traveling around my torso and showing up in surprising places, never quite going away.

Yesterday I decided to finally clean out my garden, a task which I’ve been dragging my feet on for months. With good reason, I guess: I could’ve torn out all the dead and dying foliage earlier in the summer, but I’d still have had to go back and trim back the opportunistic tree branches and rake the mesquite pods off of every surface. It’s incredible how many pods can fall off a single tree—for those who don’t know, a mesquite pod looks kind of like a string bean: in the early spring they’re green, then they turn yellow with some red shading, then they fall off and dry, more yellow than red. Because we got so much rain, they sprouted all around the yard: a mesquite seedling is very earnest, very deep of tap root. When you pull them up, it always feels like they have a sporting chance against you, and if you accidentally leave one in the ground, it will keep coming back and back and back no matter how often you hack off the branches.

(A lot of things in Tucson are mesquite flavored, too; the raw beans (before they dry out) are a little bit sour, like wine, and the dried pods add an earthy sweetness to recipes, including chocolate chip cookies. It’s a little weird, but good.)

Now the garden is raked smooth, and about a third of it has had the soil turned (I got tired). And my body has taken this opportunity to kind of seize up in the lower back, which isn’t especially shocking, since cleaning the garden is so much about raking, shoveling, bending, hauling. It is confusing, because this soreness and seizing is in concert with the other symptoms and so I can’t tell where one thing begins and another ends. Am I getting better because I was able to garden? Or did I, by gardening, make it all worse? Everything has an unexpected consequence, of this I am quite sure. Nothing has happened this summer, to me, and nothing has been done but that it has had an unexpected consequence.

Sorry about that sentence construction, I realize it’s hard to parse. But well, that is also my emotion.

Anyway, in the next few weeks I’ll buy some new soil and turn it into the old soil, and then I’ll plant carrots and winter greens and beets and broccoli and peas and zinnias and I’ll put my ranunculus corms back in the ground and hope that I dried them adequately that they will live and grow again. My phone is still full of this spring’s ranunculus pictures; the phone is, in a sense, heavy with them in the middle, dripping with those lush pinks; I can’t believe that was this year. This year I grew that garden, and saw those flowers bloom and bloom. I’m not sure what the consequence of that was; maybe just the most unexpected consequence, e.g. a moment of ordinary happiness. I feel very far away from it. Yesterday was the ninth anniversary of Dave’s dad dying, and that still feels unfair, and always will. But I still have those flowers, dry and sleeping in my cabinet. They have been beautiful before. I hope they will grow, and be beautiful again.