Hunger because this moon is February’s when the food runs out. Hunger because we’re hungry for spring, we’re tired of cold, we’re waiting for grass. The snow that falls this time of year is recognizable as summer water. It belongs to swift streams and puddles along the road. The flakes are soft and loose, and when it snows, the birds kick up, singing, flying quickly from tree to bush to fence, as if they are very busy, as if they have too much to do, as if the snow is spring rain and longs for transformation, which is also a kind of hunger. The desire for change.
I don’t know what I’ll do today. Not exactly, but it will have something in common with this restless season, restless because we’re still chained to winter, because we don’t know the exact moment the ground will thaw. I want to do yard work. I want to rake. I want to look for greet shoots in the soil, but there’s an inch of new snow on the fence, so I’ll garden vicariously, inside.
It surprises me how dry potting soil is. It’s as if someone brought it back from Mars or the moon. This year, I think I’ll dump it into five-gallon buckets and give it a good soaking before I fill my three-inch pots. I learned from last year’s mistake when I planted seeds in a panic. In the first days of the coronavirus pandemic, growing food had never felt so urgent, so I did it like someone trying to avoid an apocalypse with right living, goals, and hard work. It was haphazard, and I never did get all that soil moist enough for seeds.
Thank goodness seeds are forgiving. They grew with what water the soil did absorb in the uppermost layer. And when they were big enough, I took the plants outside for time in the sun, to harden gradually, preparing them for life outside. I carried them in trays to our outdoor table and chairs, careful not to trip, as if they were frail children who couldn’t be jostled. I tried to find dappled light so their tender leaves wouldn’t burn. But they did burn. They curled. And I felt the sinking failure foolish parents feel when they allow their children excess.
Once, when I was on a walk, the wind in the canyon picked up, and I texted my husband: bring the plants inside! I wanted him to be as vigilant as I was. I wanted him to worry, but he needed prompting. He tends to have faith that things will work out, while I’m the opposite, always expecting the worst, as if chance occurrence and happenstance are punishment for my failure to anticipate all possibilities.
That’s been a challenge with gardening, as well as other things in my life. I cannot look at my yard full of flowers and food and feel anything but failure. I see things I could have done better. I see the remnants of sun-scalding on the tomato leaves. This year, I want to change my thinking, to see the plants for their resilience in spite of my mistakes, the weather, and the weeds. To remember that it’s a plant’s nature to grow, to survive and thrive, and that gardening is about tending and consistency, but it’s also about release. I can’t control everything, but the plants don’t need me to.