For years I tried to garden, tried earnestly, worked so so hard, here in a mountain town where the season is short and soil hard to come by. We gardened in the floodplain and three times the river washed it away. We inherited gardens from friends who died, and watched them go to hell. We planted under fir trees, which killed baby plants with shade and acidity. Or bears got the carrots or squirrels clipped off the hollyhocks and left the stalks in tidy infuriating rows. (Why? Why?) Caterpillars ate leaves. Cilantro went to seed. At some point, I said fuck it. No more gardening. Please no. We know a great organic gardener who sells beautiful produce and needs our money, and finally, in our 50s we make enough to buy organic produce if we want. So we don't have to garden. But every time March rolls around, my wife pines to plant and orders seeds, and we rebuild boxes, sighing, and fill planters to put on the balcony where the bears can't get to them, or haven't yet. And we water and weed and wait. It's fine. It's fine. I hate it.
For years I have been trying to leave the mountain town. I'm like a restless teenager in menopause. I fly all over the place or used to—to work, yes, to teach, to be somewhere, anywhere, else—even though I am against it, truly, all this planet-cooking movement for movement's sake. It's wrong. But I love it. Loved it.
The pandemic brought me home in March. We puts seeds in egg cartons, kept them on a heating pad on the kitchen table, hardened them off, and eventually put them in the ground. All except the basil. It's still not hot enough. Twelve weeks in, the basil starts are barely four inches tall. They are not dead, not thriving. They're just punking along.
How am I? I'm just punking along.
I water the plants. I play Boggle online with my mother, and don't want to admit how scared I am for her, for all of us, and how I wish like hell I were in the city, marching masked beside the young people, dismantling injustice and bloatedness all around, poking it with a pin, and when it's time to go again, will I go? I don't know. I'm just punking along, waiting for something to grow.