Gardening isn’t easy, I’ve discovered. I weed one day and two days later it seems that all the weeds have come back. Some of them are kind of lovely, like the purple deadnettle, and the endless dandelions, even the tall fluffy grass I have yet to identify that I cannot seem to completely rid my yard of with my push mower. I’ve planted some seed so far, and plan to plant more in the upcoming week. It turns out you need soil in order to make things grow. Some people use raised beds. I think with my very limited skill set, the wood in my shed and access to the internet, I could probably build a few. I’m probably wrong about this, but it will not stop me from trying. I’ve promised myself many things once the school year ends—that I will spend more time writing for myself, that I will finish the tarot deck I’ve been working on, that I will finally actually quit smoking cigarettes and that I will spend more time outdoors.
These are lofty goals entering into summer, but I’m not daunted. I am trying to figure out what to do with the large area of my yard that looks as if I buried a giant’s body out there. In the fall, there was an issue with the sewage pipes, and it required digging up a portion of the yard with a small bulldozer. That segment is now mostly sand, impossible to plant in, easy to weed, and uneven. I’ve considered building some kind of sculpture with it. I’ve also considered painting the garage to make it look like a rocket ship. Some days I’m not sure that I’m great at being an adult. Other days I’m sure that I’m doing much better at being an adult than anyone could have predicted ten years ago.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the difference between plants and weeds.
Weeds plague our intentions, they get in the way of what we want. They are also the most tenacious of plants. If we thought about weeds the way we do people, they are excellent examples of survival of the fittest. We as humans are good and manipulating eco-systems to our benefit, and while that seems to be our current crowning achievement in terms of ruling the animal kingdom, it is also to our detriment.
I’m going to be thirty in a few weeks. My mouth fills with a particular kind of foul taste when I hear women my age complain about 30 being old. I blame Hollywood, or the mainstream media, or both. I Google pictures of Tina Turner and Chaka Khan and laugh at all the things our society gets wrong. If we as a society spent even half the time we spend envying, judging and publicly scrutinizing people we don’t know uplifting the people around us instead, we’d be a nation of gardeners, instead of perpetual circus-goers. I’m prey to it as much as anyone. It’s easy to lose yourself in a spectacle, nevermind a culture filled with them.
It occurred to me the other day that if I were a plant, I would be a weed. My existence wasn’t planned, or convenient for my parents. Both my mother and I nearly died on the day she gave birth to me. We didn’t. Most days now, I feel like a seed that drifts where conditions seem most hospitable. Some days I feel uprooted, others like a blossom flourishing in rich soil. Lately I’ve felt a kinship with dandelion fluff, a ball of seeds taken by wind. I’ve been doing as much as I can, trying to plan for the next few months, the next year, the next project, the new ideas.
I had a hard time knowing what to write about for the blog this week because of two things. The first was letting myself get lost in disgust at other people’s misdeeds. I should know better than to read the news every day, because I fall into rabbit holes, unable to fully comprehend the world I live in. I was mortified to see a radical right-wing blogger publicly threaten the life of a prominent black activist on Twitter. I clenched my jaw at the news around Josh Duggar and how many people protected him, but not his sisters. And then, I drank a lot of water, found a dancehall playlist on Youtube and danced in my house for 20 minutes like no one else existed. I don’t mean I danced like no one was watching, but I imagined there was no one else around me for thousands of miles and I never had to worry about other people’s intentions or actions at all.
The second thing that distracted me from writing this post is what I think is the beginning embryonic stage of a novel. I can’t say what it’s about just yet, but the characters keep interrupting me. I let them tell me about who they are and what they think they’re doing while I do yard work. It’s immensely soothing. I listened to a brief interview Hilton Als did with Toni Morrison recently, where she said she was depressed after finishing the Bluest Eye, because she needed another world to retreat to. I related to what she said. Even if that other world is just as brutal as this one, it makes sense to me. It’s a world that can be controlled, like a garden. Editing can be a great deal like weeding. Editing is my favorite part of writing. Planting is hard, and conditions can be so tenuous.
The school year is winding down, and so my pace is starting to slow, and I feel something bubbling inside me. Normally when I’ve felt wildly busy for a long while and I come upon some kind of break, it leads to a kind of crash—not world-shattering but still difficult. This week, it could be a pre-crash, but nothing seems gloomy. Instead, I’ve been daydreaming, lost in a kind of reverie, moving about Detroit in love with the landscape, gleefully laughing in the supermarket when I ran into a friend who started twerking in the produce section, smiling at couples riding their bikes together. Spring feels strange and gorgeous here, like soil to sew dreams in.
I look forward to rain and sun equally. Instead of being anxious about what’s to come, for the first time in my life, I feel grounded and ready. I’m looking forward to gardening and barbequing and building relationships with new people. It feels right. Even if I am a weed, I feel un-pluckable.
Casey Rocheteau, Inaugural Write A House winner