One of the things we've been most excited to work on, since moving, is establishing a garden. My husband is gung-ho about growing our food, and there is, in my opinion, no earthly experience quite like eating a tomato fresh from the vine with a tiny sprinkling of salt. So! We ordered a pile of seed packets. We planted. We watered. And we waited.
I haven't done a ton of gardening in my adult life. We had a small garden when we lived in Iowa City, where we mostly grew tomatoes, green peppers, and basil. Our yard in Ashland was little, sloped, and oddly shaped, and between starting the shop and having a baby in quick succession, my attention was simply elsewhere. So we've really been looking forward to this spring for a long time. For years, honestly.
I'll be the first to admit I know very little, but blissfully, to get started, you don't need to! You just put some seeds in soil and water them and see what happens. I mean, I'm counting on experience to teach me a lot more nuance, but for now, we've got some lettuce and kale coming along, some corn looking good, carrots, tomatoes, and rutabagas, of all things. I think we missed the window on getting leeks and onions in because nothing discernible is happening there. But many things are, in fact, growing! And maybe my proudest accomplishment? I wanted to line our beds with annuals without spending a pile of money, so I went out and planted zinnia seeds every twelve inches -- 150 or so of them. The seeds are itty bitty, and I did it on the spur of the moment without even a well-weeded strip to work with. But I kept checking as the days went by, and--miracle of miracles!--I saw a sprout that resembled another sprout a foot away, which resembled another sprout a foot away. I go visit them daily, and I'm telling you now, if they produce so much as one flower, I will be over the moon.
I feel like a scientist who has made an epic discovery. I stuck those teensy nothings in the ground, and they are growing! Into somethings! THE WORLD NEEDS TO KNOW.
I mean, I know I am late to this party, but part of the miracle to me is that in this world of disposable, plastic, giant stuff all over our environment, there is still this: a seed that would get lost if you so much as sneezed. The smallest organic matter that yet contains such a precious major miracle inside of it.
Germination is an astonishing thing, witnessed close up. And it's reminding me of how essential it is to be patient. The best things just. take. time. A friend of mine invited me to read Middlemarch by George Eliot with her earlier this spring. I studied Victorian and modernist literature in grad school, so it's a text I had "read" before. But I had to speed read at the time, which is not ideal, and there was a 200-page gap where my underlining and marginalia completely disappear. So, to confess: I hadn’t ever properly read Middlemarch. I accepted her invitation.
And then regretted it. My copy of the novel is over 800 pages, and the first 100 pages were all right, but the next 300 were, to be kind, an insufferable slog. I'm sure it's not George Eliot's fault. I'm sure it's just the asynchronicity of her life and mine, and I'm fairly positive that it would improve on a reread. But there's a lot of reference to Victorian politics, and a lot of backstory about minor characters, and a lot of time spent on one truly dissatisfying character, and between that and the syntactically complex sentences, I was immediately lulled to sleep every night. (I mean, I have trouble sleeping, so at least there's that?)
But something remarkable happened as I kept plugging along. I started looking forward to it. I started reading it in the bath. And while I was drying my hair. And before I went to bed. And at other times, too, if I could slip in fifteen minutes. There were big dramas in a small village. Sinful pasts exposed. Ties that bind unloosed. Quiet, long-burning passions spoken and requited. In the end, I was so glad I stuck with it. Those early days when the seed of the novel was only just poking through the soil and slowly unfurling tried my patience to be sure, but by the end, there were blossoms and blossoms galore, so many they made my heart hurt in appreciation.
Can you imagine how much time it takes to write a novel over 800 pages? It took Mary Ann Evans, the person behind the pen name, three years. Three years! Which frankly seems fast to me! That kind of commitment demands staying power and vision—and also, a heck of a lot of faith in yourself.
Which is the lesson I’m trying to sit with right now. I’m struggling with Poetry by Post. It’s a difficult enough thing to do the work of it. Between keeping up with the reading, writing, and design and the normal operations of the shop (adding kids at home for summer on top of it), it’s exhausting to figure out how to tackle the marketing. I have some ideas. I’ve taken initial steps. But to believe and believe and keep believing in something over the course of weeks, months, and years that is never quite getting the necessary allotment of sunshine and water… it can become discouraging. The patience is just impossible to summon at times.
But no one ever said patience would feel possible. And so we wait.