A Garden of Failures
And also an unintentional metaphor for life at large
Several years ago, I decided to start a garden. It was shortly after we’d moved to this house, and the owners had left some old 3’x3’ planting boxes. I planted all kinds of seeds. Green beans, peppers, carrots, lettuce: you name it, I had a seed for it. I tapped the tiny things out of the packets, careful to follow the spacing recommendations. I patted down the soil over the new plantings. I doused the whole thing in water. I installed a trellis.
And then, basically, I forgot about it.
Needless to say, nothing grew that year. All my high hopes, and I just didn’t have the energy, knowledge, time, or headspace to follow through.
A year or two later, I had my husband clear out a patch of ground. We leveled it, fenced it off, and did some planting. This time, we started some seeds indoors. Most of them didn’t grow big enough to be transplanted, but after a week or two of diligent watering, we ended up growing some seedlings outside. Then, mostly, out of sight, out of mind.
After that we built a really big raised gardening bed. We paid for a soil delivery, trucked it all over one wheelbarrow at a time, and set up a really nice looking garden. I went online and researched the kinds of things I wanted to grow, learning when to start them indoors, when to transplant them outside, and what kinds of conditions they need. I created a gardening plan and executed the hell out of it. That year, we ended up harvesting some strawberries, herbs, tomatoes, and a single purple pepper that didn’t taste very good. 🤣
Two years ago, I had a newborn. Last year, I had a toddler, but not the right kind of toddler for gardening. We started some seeds in the basement under a grow lamp but forgot to water them. We did plant some things outside, but it was so dry and we were so closed up in the house that my diligence with watering fell off after, like, June, and - besides weeds that I didn’t have the energy to remove - we didn’t get much other than a handful of tomatoes and some sage and rosemary that had seeded the year before.
This year, I gave up.
“Are we going to do a garden this year?” asked my husband in April.
“I don’t know,” I said, knowing better than to commit.
“Are we just not planting anything this year?” he asked in May.
“Nope,” I said. After 8 years, I’d accepted my limitations. I knew how unlikely I was to have the diligence to water it, weed it, maintain it, and do all the other maintenance things you don’t know you’re supposed to do until you fail. (Like broccoli - did you know you’re supposed to mulch around your broccoli so the soil doesn’t get too hot? Otherwise you end up with what looks like a chia pet instead of an edible vegetable.)
Then, in June, my neighbor, who always has such a beautiful, bountiful garden, asked if we wanted some cucumber and green bean plants. At this point, our “garden” consisted of strawberry plants, which just keep coming back despite my doing nothing to care for or propagate them, surrounded by a carpet of weeds.
“Ummmm,” I said. “I mean, I’ll take them if you promise not to get mad when I kill them.”
One day, while the toddler was out playing in the dirt, I went to town on those weeds, clearing a place for my new baby plants. He is spending much more time outside this year, and he’s at the point where I don’t have to worry about him choking on rocks or disappearing through the slats in the fence.
Because we’re outside so often, I have managed to to spend some time actually tending to the garden. When the cucumbers had started blooming and creeping, my husband showed up with some more plants - peppers, broccoli, tomatoes, squash, and melon.
It took a few days, but I eventually got all those planted, too, and now we’ve got an actual, real-live garden going. It gets watered daily, the fruits are growing, and there are new blossoms every day.
I’m excited to see the harvest. I already know it will be better than all the other years.
But also, it would not have been possible if not for all those other years.
If I hadn’t failed all those times, and learned more about gardening and myself as I had, this garden wouldn’t be here in all its splendor today. I didn’t have the time and energy to commit back then, but I learned enough to know that about myself, and to know that nothing is permanent, as much as it feels like it is. Eventually, circumstances change. Things calm down and time frees up and the things you didn’t prioritize, you can start prioritizing again.
I need that reminder over a million areas in my life. Gardening, whatever. There are (for now) still stores where I can buy the produce I don’t grow in my dinky little garden. But things like having the time to exercise more, or do jigsaw puzzles, or focus on my writing business - it is so easy to get stuck in a negativity spiral because I can’t make the progress I want to make. I am rageful at the fact that I can’t do everything I want right now.
But that little garden reminds me that, if I keep at it, I’ll have a strong foundation in place that will help me be successful later.
I know for a fact I’m not the only one. I know circumstances have prevented you from doing something you wanted to do, and I bet you’ve been able to find a time later (in the day, in life - whatever) to give it more attention. What was it? Let us know in the comments, or by responding to this email (assuming it’s in your inbox).
What’s Entertaining Me?
Two things, and neither will be new to you. First, Time Traveler’s Wife. Remember how I was so certain there would be a second season? I was wrong. That’s just unfair, if you ask me. I can’t muster up tears for something that was never going to exist in the first place, but if I could, this would be the first thing I’d cry for.
Stranger Things. We finished the season, and I have to say, I liked the second half more than the first. I’m kinda mad that each episode is the length of a Scorcese film, but other than that, I am looking forward to seeing what the fifth and final (I think I’m right this time!) has to offer.
Oh - one more thing. I also started watching Everything Everywhere All at Once, and it is wild. It follows a Chinese couple through different dimensions and possible paths their lives could have taken. It reminds me of my first book (No, it’s not actually done - but it will be, one day!) but, like, much funnier and more exciting.
What’s Enlightening Me?
These photos from the James Webb Telescope. Holy cow. If I ever needed a reminder of my place in the universe…
I couldn’t find any images in the public domain yet, but I don’t think you’ll regret clicking on the link.
A Note of Gratitude
Y’all are pretty awesome. You read my inane ramblings each week, and you have been supporting me for a really long time as I work on building a real vision of who I want to be professionally. I appreciate you. I’ve been taking this summer, as you might know, to get a very strong foundation set up in all the places I hang out on the internet. The biggest place I hang out is right here - so I made some renovations to my About page. Check it out here. Subscribe if you haven’t already. Send it to someone who you think would enjoy my brand of humor + heart. That way, when I have a book to sell, in the not-too-distant future, I’ll have someone to tell about it. 😊
See you next week,