This column was going to be titled “Here We Go Again,” and would have been all about the delta variant and being a writer, and about Mark and I having to shrink the boundaries of our world once again.
But fuck that.
I am so sick of talking about Covid19 and conspiracies and vaccines and face masks and lockdowns and rabid politicians and shortages of Yasso Bars and cashews and boba pearls and Tazo green tea.
I need a little beauty.
One of our favorite TV shows is Arrested Development, the comedic story of a very dysfunctional family. In one episode, the patriarch (George Bluth) tells his son Michael “There’s always money in the banana stand,” referring to a seaside banana stand the family has run for a generation.
Michael misunderstands, and ends up burning the stand to the ground with his son. It’s an act of rebellion, but also a play for the insurance money, which doesn’t come through because the insurance premium wasn’t paid. An enraged George Bluth tells Michael “I told you, there’s always money in the banana stand. The walls of the banana stand were lined with cash!”
We laughed our asses off at that one, mixing metaphor with a literal interpretation. We writers eat that up.
This came to mind this morning as I was feeling sorry for myself for doing all the right things, and being stuck back in lockdown anyway. But it’s not just that. There’s ugliness everywhere I look. Death, crime, lies, faces contorted in masks of anger. I don’t sleep well. I am tired all the time, and when I do sleep, it’s often because my eyes have closed in the office in front of my computer.
There has to be more. Where’s all the beauty?
Then it hit me. There’s always beauty in the garden.
This year’s garden is my most ambitious. I planted tomatoes (three kinds), bell peppers, cajun bells, jalapenos, zucchini, basil, and even an avocado tree. And there’s a patch of volunteer mint plants I discovered in the back corner. It’s partly a practical thing. There are fruits and vegetables to harvest, and they taste wonderful in a fresh, homemade salad.
But there’s another piece of it too, one I often overlook in my rush to harvest whatever’s ripe on a given day.
There are little bits of it wherever you look. Though you can’t see it in the photo above, there’s a delicate spider web string from those yellow flowers to the tomato plant next door, with the tiniest wisp of a spider. I call her Charlotte.
Light green, unripe cajun bells dangle from their slightly darker pepper plant leaves. Cherry tomatoes hang in green, gold, orange and red like Christmas ornaments from arching green branches, hanging in a bright green cathedral of dappled sunlight.
And a robust fern hides secrets in her pit, far below her rustling fronds.
To grow a garden is to believe in the resiliency of life. To face day-to-day challenges thrown at you, and to learn how to deal with them so that by this time next year, things will be better.
Gardening is a finite task with infinite possibilities, an outdoor sanctuary from computers and stale air and the vagaries of human emotions.
There’s always beauty in the garden.
And when I slow down to take it in, there’s beauty (and a little more peace) inside of me, too.
How are you finding beauty in these troubled times?