A few days ago, I dared to go into my garden after spending weeks fearing that nothing lived under the layer of oak leaves. Everything must have died a natural death or been eaten from underneath by chipmunks. But a green iris spear poking through made me take a closer look. Once there, I couldn’t contain myself and furiously raked the leaves away with my hands to see what else might still be alive — what might have seen itself through snow, wind and drought. I felt that same excitement after my second COVID shot when I finally believed that our long period of isolation was coming to an end. Parts of me that had been dormant came alive, and now I am afraid if I don’t tend to them, they will die away.
Though the restrictions of the last year made life difficult, some of us had the luxury of filling uninterrupted time reading, exercising or languishing in streaming services. I read in the media recently that many of us are culling through our old habits, rejecting what no longer works, and seeing that we have the opportunity to keep on with the new normal including the surprising delight we may have found in being alone and accountable to no one but ourselves. Many of us stopped feeling guilty about seeing fewer people and making fewer commitments. Many of us like this pared-back lifestyle.
In the garden I become ruthless — pulling weeds and digging into the roots of the evening primroses that, even though beautiful, have spread out into a mat sucking away nutrients from surrounding plants that I love – lady’s mantle, peonies, and lavender. I clip the rangy sassafras close to the roots and buy a few more plants to fill a large empty spot where nothing but weeds and hardy Hosta grow. After a few hours I’m soaked in sweat, and my muscles ache from digging down, turning the earth, and working in fresh humus and old leaves. I stop and take in the scene — shovel and trowel scattered over the earth, ancient wheelbarrow, sitting at the edge of the lawn, empty pots on their sides, the new plants now in the ground. The sickly bleeding hearts that seem to have barely made it through, waver in the breeze. I water everything hoping that the new, the old and the forlorn will all thrive together in the same bed.