A month ago I planted a garden. It was a simple little garden of simple little seedlings gifted by a sweet friend. I wasn’t particularly enthusiastic about starting a garden, but since I like to get outside every day with the kids, I figured this would be a good alternative to loading up the car to head to parks and beaches. Also, truth be told, it seems like the type of thing I should be doing, the type of mom I should be. David would say from time to time that we should really start growing some herbs and vegetables. It wasn’t necessarily a hint that I be the one to do it so much as him vocalizing his own extended to-do list, but I nonetheless felt self-inflicted pressure about it.
The gift of seedlings was the impetus to finally get the garden going. I went to the Lowe’s garden center, hoping to find a gardening enthusiast of an employee who would delight in the opportunity to take a novice under her wing, maybe rub some passion off on me. Instead, I got the feeling she was mildly annoyed with me. Like why couldn’t I just pick out some dirt and a hose without giving her the third degree about everything? But knowing the time I had to make sense of things was severely compromised by two squirmy kids, I hounded her until she reluctantly started tossing things in my cart for me.
I went home and constructed a raised garden bed, lugged heavy bags of soil, and lovingly planted our seedlings. It was fun. Fun-ish. It was also a constant battle to keep the manure-laced soil out of the baby’s mouth. But once the hard work was done, the rewarding part came: visiting our little plants each morning with the hose, watching them grow little by little. Sure, our three year-old applied his newfound hose skills to his penis in the bathroom. But that was part of the family gardening fun – a new story in the anthology I’ll share with his future wife.
And then one morning, a massacre! All of our plants so lovingly tended to gone in one fell swoop by a hungry deer. It was heartbreaking. I should’ve seen it coming – in fact I kind of did see it coming but each morning our growing crop was miraculously there to greet us, so I just kept leaving the poor little guys exposed and vulnerable. But it was still heartbreaking. It felt like a slap in the face. It hadn’t been my heart telling me to garden so much as my sense of obligation, and just something different to do. But it’s just not my thing. At least not when it’s all for a deer.
David could tell it really got to me, and suggested I take a couple hours to myself. I know, what a guy. We’re both good about spotting each other for mental health breaks. So I went for a 25-minute drive to a beach I’d never been to. It was a half mile stretch that was almost completely isolated with warm tide pools and sand full of coral, shells, and weathered bits of sea glass. I thought about how fortunate I am to have a partnership in which we spot each other when needed, and to live in a place that’s so glorious to be alone. I thought about how minor a wrecked garden is. Or needing a little alone time. I thought about the clock ticking and how I felt guilty being away. What is that about mothers? Why does our short-lived, infrequent, and precious alone time have to be marred with guilt. It really makes it hard to enjoy. Oh well, I got two nice drives and a few minutes to myself in paradise. The beach is easier on my soul than the garden. I headed back home.
For now the garden and I are on a break. I need a couple weeks to lick my wounds. The surviving basil is very lucky it’s been raining a lot around here. But I do plan to start over, this time with some deer protection. And not so much because it’s something I should do, but because it was something I learned to appreciate. Yet another time stepping out of my comfort zone wasn’t a bad call. I can see the appeal. I can see how people find their paradise in a garden.