I last wrote about the joy my garden gives me, the reminder it provides that what’s great about life is its ability to refresh and renew—a perpetual reset button. As it turns out, I apparently am destined to make frequent use of that reset button in ways both large and small.
I came home from running some errands yesterday, eager to get inside my apartment and seek refuge from this rare Seattle heat wave. On my way in, I said hello to the landscaping crew loading their equipment into a truck parked in front of my building. I was relieved to see that they’d trimmed the front yard and cut back the shrubs at my gate, and kept on walking, ready to get inside and guzzle some water.
Most who are close to me know well my disdain for any kind of heat above about 78 degrees; the Pacific Northwest is precisely the right environment for me as I would take 12 months of winter over 3 months of summer any day. The temperature rose to 94 degrees, leaving me know choice but to retreat inside with a chapter to write and many, many frozen grapes to eat.
In such weather, I tend to get overly concerned about my comfort, Mona’s comfort, and even the comfort of my plants. In fact, because it was so hot, I decided that it would be smart to give my garden an extra mid-day watering, just to combat the wilting that had already commenced. I turned the corner to the side of my building and stopped in my tracks at what I saw. I literally gasped a quick intake of burning hot air: The landscapers had leveled my garden.
I stood there, mouth agape, scanning the scorched, bare dirt—my gaze fixated on the tiny nubs protruding from the soil where just a few hours earlier had stood my healthy and flourishing pea, strawberry, tomato, and basil plants. I saw brown where there should have been green. Barrenness where there previously was life. I realize that I’m being indulgently melodramatic about this, but having grown those plants from seeds, I cannot help myself from getting all maternal over my butchered darlings. I tended and watched and watered and loved those newborn plants, had just barely begun to harvest them. What was so terrible was the seeming randomness of the landscapers’ mutilation: they left some plants as is while straight-up weed-whacking others to smithereens. My pea plants were literally dripping with shiny, happy pea pods. And then they were murdered. Murdered, I tell you. Right in the prime of their lives.
When I snapped out of my shock, I walked over to the two remaining landscapers, and asked if I could speak with them about their work. I asked them why they decided to cut away half of the strawberry plants while leaving the rest behind, and why they had hacked away about a dozen tomato plants while neglecting to shape or trim the out-of-control rosemary bush (the only part of the garden that actually needed attention), they said only that they’d taken care of what was “ugly.” They didn’t care about my darlings, and they certainly didn’t care about the many hours of my hard work they’d wiped clean.
I’ll admit that I was so frustrated and so sad that I went inside, sat down at my desk, and cried. I called a few people and vented, posted a facebook rant about what had happened, and then cried a little more. I let the loss wash through me, and then I let it pass. Simply being able to piss and moan about what had happened made me feel better, and for once, the benefits of social networking on facebook yielded tangible, wonderful support—real relationships from an online forum.
And though I am incredibly bummed to see so much time, money, and hard work wasted—demolished by people who couldn’t possibly care less, I am lucky to have nice landlords who have been helpful and sympathetic. And I know I can start again next year, and that, with a little nurturing, some of the destroyed plants might just come back.
Every time I think I understand entirely just how impermanent life can be, I seem to need reminding. I look back on my life like a series of revolving reset buttons, an unending string of moments demanding that I start over and I realize now, after seeing the unpredictable and unfair death of my garden, that this pretty much puts me in the same boat as the rest of the world. I see the transience of all things, the truly snap-shot nature of life on this microcosmic scale.
Maybe it’s all the Thich Nhat Hanh books I’ve been reading and writing about lately, or maybe it’s the newfound freshness and excitement being injected into my life by the new job I’ll be starting in a few days, but I’ve bounced back from this garden incident with surprising peace of mind. My garden is gone and this is sad, yes. However, I can grow a new one to take its place, can begin again. It appears that life will continue to throw me reminders that I should try not to become so attached to things—both living and inanimate—no matter what I do. It is not for me to control the pace and intensity with which those reminders come; it is only for me to figure out what to do next, and move right on along.