Gardening in the Time of Monsters

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Time does not freeze, not for all the wanting it to that a human can have.  The world is moving on around us, beginning to open back up, despite unchecked infection rates and over 111,000 dead in the US alone.  We lead, but not in a good way.    Cities continue to be filled with protests because of more unnecessary killings of people with dark skin. People are literally starving here in the richest country in the world.  I grieve.   I don’t understand how armed white men can storm a state house and be left alone, and blacks protest without weapons because they are tired of dying of police brutality and the police response is horrific and violent.

I don’t understand how this can happen,  and all the while the leader of the free world drives us into darkness.

“Now is the time of monsters” wrote Antonio Gramsci in 1929 from a fascist prison.  And so it is now, too, 91 years later.

But rather than join the anger and the hating, I decided it’s on me, on all of us, to create more love.  An image of white women in a line protecting black protesters with their bodies?  Love.  Those feeding the 42 million plus people out of work?  Love.

Even smaller acts of love make the world a better place.  Wearing masks, helping others start gardens, checking in on the people around us.  If we are to live in a time of monsters, we must bring out the angels of our better selves to counteract them.  We must give, yes, but we must also sustain ourselves, because this is not going to be a sprint to a better place.

A wall of richly scented white lilacs dangled over the outdoor dining table like a benediction for several weeks.  They don’t last long, lilacs – but they held long enough to have our first social distancing picnic with friends among them two weeks ago.  I typically spend a day at the ever-lovely Pickity Place with my next door neighbor for her birthday in May, but this year it wasn’t possible, so her 50 cycles around the sun that occurred a few weeks ago went unmarked by anyone other than family.   Her husband, mine and I decided to remedy that, and I took a long drive to New Hampshire to get her birthday dinner, given that take out and a quick visit to the greenhouse was an option, so lupines and violas now grow in my front yard.

Last weekend we celebrated France Day here, a completely arbitrary, made up holiday that involved us making and eating french food, playing french music, and building a 3-d Eiffel Tower puzzle.  Why?  Our plan to spend April vacation in France visiting the sites, shopping at Farmer’s Markets while channeling Julia Childs (ok, that bit is just me) and visiting some friends who happen to be brilliant enough to live there was put aside by pandemic.  And in a world where every day tends to be much like the last, making something special for us is important.

I’ve sat out the protests, not because I want to, but because we’re pretty sure I had Covid-19, I’m still fatigued a lot, and with two immune-compromised household members and still no sense of whether there’s some kind of post-virus immunity, we need to put our lives above participation.  That’s hard for me.   I’m praying for change as I plant tomatoes and cook for some friends who need a hand, and parent and work and hope that no one else gets hurt.

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The peonies began to bloom on Friday, and their scent fills the yard and house.  We are almost done planting and building the last of the garden beds.  We chose cement bricks, even though they are less beautiful than clay, they last  longer.  We have a desire to build something that will last.

My son filled a bed with cabbage, small pumpkins, Nasturtiums and seeds for a moon garden, and has been watering it with dedication, like the little boy in The Carrot Seed.  He struggles sometimes, without his schedule and friends and family.   But the garden for him, too is a place of peace.

If now is the time of monsters, we must create hope wherever we can.    My hope is in the garden.

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