One Gardener’s Perspective of Covid

Way back now, prior to my retirement and Covid, having a garden was more of a life-long habit than anything, perhaps even genetically passed down to me by my maniacal “mother of the green thumb” (but minus that green thumb part.)  

The warm spring weather brought with it a daily slog of yard and gardening chores, a downer, nagging at me incessantly through fall, chewing up my precious little free time.  “Go to the beach today?!  No, time to fertilize.  Mow the lawn again?  Time to pick the raspberries, peas, swiss chard, green beans, etc. again?   How do you stop these mangy things from growing? “ 

I longed for that first frost, when everything would be wiped out.  I would at last have my weekends back.   

Then, two major events: 

In January of 2019 I retired.  Not bad. 

Then, the big whammy.  In January of 2020, I started reading about this new virus.  Then, China was quarantining.  Then, in early March, I opened the Boston Globe, and I saw that they were sending the students home from Harvard.  

The shock of what was truly happening set in.  My life was becoming the stuff of science fiction novels.  What is this Corona Virus?!  I started reading everything I could about it.  Conclusion:  We’re in trouble.  

On March 12th I attended my last spin class at Boston Sports Club.  As we meticulously wiped down our bikes before class, an eeriness filled the room.  The gang was punchy with grim humor.  “What’re we doing here?!  We’re nuts!  Don’t cough on me! (joking)” 

The fear in our eyes was clear.  As Stephanie led the class with classic rock music blasting, and her usual collection of kitsch trivia, there was a bonding perhaps reminiscent of other times in history such as this – the pending of World War II, or just after 911.  We knew our lives were about to change in a dramatic -and not so good – way.      

And they did.  The gym and eventually most everything else, was shut down the following week.  We were wearing masks.  I did not want to even go buy groceries.  Countries all over the world were in various states of lockdown.  Thousands of people were dying.  And we were told there was no way to stop it except to do one thing: stay home.    

And there it was.  My second year of retirement, that I was so looking forward to, was in a few short months morphed from a trip to Paris, and lazy days with my granddaughter, Hazel, to guess what: yep.  Gardening.  

My first thoughts: what negative Karma had I built up in past lives that would curse me with this?  No more mussels and martinis at Mission Oak Restaurant?  No days taking walks with Hazel?  No Paris?  Somebody must have given me the evil eye.   I’m trapped in hell with this garden.

But then, something changed.  Towards the end of March, we got to have Hazel for a few weeks- as her parents adjusted to their new work situation at home.  This little one year old was running my life, and I loved it.  

I started baking bread, and reading fiction novels.  We cooked more, declining to do take-out.  

And the seed magazines started arriving in the mail.  I casually opened one.  And hey, those tomato and basil seeds were looking enticing.  What?  

I pulled out my seedling indoor grow light from the basement, that I had stealthily hidden away for the last 5 years, and by the end of April, in the middle of my dining room, I was watering little pots of tomato and basil seedlings.  And I was enjoying it.  

Pam and I pulled out the graph paper and started negotiating the garden set up.  We decided to rearrange things.  Later, we would decide to purchase a 3 x 6 foot raised bed to increase the garden size.  

What?  The money I had been spending on margaritas and nachos was now buying something that would expand my garden?  I must be losing my mind.

But really, what I was doing was trying to make the best of it.  And, as a bit of an introvert anyway, I was not finding it as hard as I thought it would be.  

Who knew, that in my second summer of retirement I would actually start looking forward to seeing a weed.  Or watering the flower pots.  And, yes, even fertilizing.  OK, maybe I’m stretching the truth a little bit here, but often these chores have become amazingly comforting:  a daily purpose.  

What else do I do?  Well, yep, very important things like fill the bird feeders.  Bake bread.  Cook!  Read fiction, which I had never made time for.  I’m taking an on-line class.  Pam and I go for long walks and short bike rides.  We talk about birds, wildflowers, gardening, food.  We “attend” Wednesday night church.  We’re establishing a routine with Hazel’s parents where they get tested for Covid and once the tests are negative, they visit us for a weekend, and then leave Hazel with us for the week.       

So, for me personally, as awful as Covid is, the slowing down of my life has not been unpleasant.  While visions of winging my way to Paris have floated down the tubes, new activities have filled them.  This wasn’t quite the retirement I’d planned, but, well, I guess it’s pretty good.   

So, at the end of all of this rambling I will leave you with one last burning question:  

Have the tomato plants been watered?

Stillness

I am thinking about stillness this early morning. There is delightful space between small sounds. It is this silent space that interests me, draws me in like a soothing balm. To be in it, and looking out from it, rather than the opposite. From this safe stillness, I perch, smell the coffee, feel the spring sun shine through the window, warming me, see the March wind move tree limbs to dance! Clouds float. I breathe a deep breath, hear my exhale.