Lately I haven’t felt like writing. You may have noticed. For two weeks I have turned on the computer, opened a new document, and then repeatedly checked my email.
I have made the rounds of my favorite websites, become disenchanted by the headlines, and left promptly after checking the score of the ballgame. The only things able to move me to action are cooking blogs and the Joy of Cooking print edition. In the past week I have made apricot jam, coconut macaroons, shrimp Thai noodles, whole wheat blueberry muffins, banana walnut waffles, and six different kinds of pizza. I have been busy.
I realize that part of inspiration is the action you take every day. The people you choose to surround yourself with, the books you read, the music you listen to, the route you take to work. Maybe I need to start doing something different. Something that does not arrive from a few scoops of a bag of flour with some honey drizzled on top. Because right now my runs aren’t doing it. Mountain biking isn’t doing it. Reading isn’t doing it. I wonder if it’s because the world is not really an inspiring place to read about right now.
Lately our government held its people, and its future, hostage because a few egocentric white dudes couldn’t imagine not having their picture hanging on the wall in a handful of state-owned buildings. The world economy is in the shitter because people continue to put faith in the movement of some numbers they can never touch and that represent people and companies they don’t work for. Children are starving in Africa because their parents have nothing to offer the world except sad stories.
The only place I see progress happening is in my backyard. There everything has a season, a chance for some time in the sun before being carted off to the compost pile where it will become nourishment for some other life. A retirement stay with the worms.
Life in the garden begins with a seed and conditions deemed good enough to try. Those who survive the first few weeks in the ground are fragile. Sensitive to heat, cold, insects, mold, and infection. They grow, mature, produce, and die. Kind of like us.
When spring first came to Utah it was wildflowers and muddy trails, snowmelt on the run – trying to pull the rest of the mountain down behind it. The soil finally dried and the grasshoppers came. Then the butterflies. The last to arrive were the dragon flies. I recently came across an entire field of them mating. Or eating. I can’t be sure. But I ran through the dry grass with hundreds of wings zipping past my face and none of them ever touching me.
This month I pulled the last of the peas from the ground and the first of the beets. I thinned carrots that finally resemble carrots. I discovered tiny green tomatoes that aren’t so tiny anymore. Planted corn that might not make it. Boiled apricots into the first hours of morning. I yanked onions from the earth and dreamt of homemade gnocchi still maturing underground.
Gardening is a process much like writing. Both sound more romantic than they really are. Both require diligence, weeding, and a thinning of the unnecessary. And for me, both are an exercise of faith. That what I intended to produce actually made it into the rows and onto the pages. That I actually created something at all. This summer I have found more success in the garden. I am looking forward to the fall when the temperatures drop, the leaves change, and maybe I will too.
For now, I weed when necessary. Collect apples and apricots rotting on the ground and carry them to the compost pit. I watch young girls pushing baby strollers down the sidewalk. I wonder about the things they know that I do not. I wonder what I have done that they never will. Apples continue to drop from my tree in the backyard. The plums and pears look healthy and strong. They’re not ripe yet, but getting there.