“What have I learned”

greeenhouse morning

I was sitting in that blue chair just now, drinking my coffee, when it occurred to me that the greenhouse we built to solve a few issues—too many plants in winter in the sun-room off our bedroom so that we can’t actually sit in it, which was the whole point when we designed the sun-room more than 30 years ago being perhaps the most important…—has in fact enabled my habit of never discarding seedlings when I transplant them. Choose the strongest plants, we’re told. But what if they all have the potential to be strong, given half a chance? That’s the reason I have at least 50 tomato plants this year and no room on the upper deck for eggplants and peppers which will spend their summer in the greenhouse. I was sitting in the greenhouse, drinking my coffee, when I suddenly felt, well, a little crowded. Some things will be moved out once the good weather is here to stay. Long tubs of basil will join the tomato plants. On the shelves at the end, on the left, are the pumpkins and other squash, just waiting for really warm nights. A few last trays of beans. (Most have been planted but there are still more…)

new eggplants

I don’t know any other way to do this. You plant seeds. You care for the seedlings. And then, what, you have to discard some because they’re not strong enough? Anyway, we’ll have eggplants, poblano peppers, and tomatoes. Beans. Cinderella pumpkins. Is there anything better in summer? Last week I took the last carton of roasted tomato sauce from the freezer, made from last summer’s abundance. (Method is here, if you’re interested.)

Last night I dreamed I was almost awake when I heard a voice, one of my children but I didn’t know which one, leaning over me as I slept, saying, Mum, mum. Mum, I’m here. And in the dream, I thought, Why have you come now, in the night, when it was fall I hoped to see you? It was a strange half-dream and I know it came from the experience of revisiting, for an essay, the memories of John’s surgery and its aftermath in October and November, long difficult weeks, with little sleep, so much anxiety as we kept having to return to hospital for various issues, and how isolated I felt during that period. It wasn’t as though it was a time when anyone else could have helped. Our Provincial COVID numbers weren’t great, people were being asked to stay home, within their pod, and we were told at UBC Hospital that we must consider John medically vulnerable for some weeks. Writing about those days, those weeks, took me there again and the voice in the night, saying, I’m here, Mum, was welcome but also discordant. You can’t be here. The timing is wrong. And when I woke, I was filled with messy complicated feelings.

My greenhouse is therapy these days. I sit with my coffee, breathing in the deep green scent of basil, rosemary, the soil mix I make with alfalfa pellets taking me back to the days when I had a horse and fed him a section of a bale of alfalfa most evenings, and I close my eyes while eggplants settle into their pots and everything grows in the spring light. I didn’t think I’d be writing about a dream when I started this post, didn’t think I’d be back, however briefly, at the UBC Hospital, listening to a nurse explain the process of care and healing.

What have I learned but
the proper use for several tools

The moments
between hard pleasant tasks

–Gary Snyder, “What Have I Learned” (from the gorgeous Axe Handles)

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