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In This Place

Thinking about spring and hoping for a green thumb

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Mary Bergman
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There’s a friend of mine who is always chiding me about my failed garden: “You’ve got to do something with all that land,” she says. She has transformed the hemline of her little house with wildflowers, raised beds, and window boxes.

In contrast, I have done very little. All that land, I think. The GIS map tells me I live on zero point sixteen acres.

Years ago, I planted rosemary and sage along my deck and the plants just took off, enjoying their sandy soil surroundings. Occasionally, I feel guilty enough about the weeds around the house that I pull them. And if you believe goldenrod is a wildflower and not a weed, then there are a few flowers growing here. Their heavy yellow heads sway in the wind and polish the cedar shingles in half circles.

Gardening and planting require you to have patience and hope. Sometimes it feels like both of these are in short supply. I’ve been cautious about investing time improving my postage stamp of a yard, perhaps because the future seems so uncertain. What is this island going to be like in another ten years, another fifty years? Will all who need to find places to live? Will the sea wash over Cotaue?

And lesser concerns: will I ever put in that outdoor shower?

I spoke to a men’s group a few months back and one member put it succinctly: “You know, you seem like a professional worrier.”

There are other moments, walking along the shoreline or down a street I have walked down a thousand times before, looking at the lights left on in other people’s houses, where it seems like this is exactly where I am supposed to be.

Maybe I have been a little scared to put down roots, literally. But a few weeks ago, the Hudson Valley Seed Company shipped thirty heirloom spring bulbs right to my door. Well, I ordered them. I could either let the bulbs go bad--I assume they do--or get them in the ground before it got too cold.

I went over to my grandparent’s house to find a trowel. My grandparents are long gone now but their house is exactly as they left it-- fishermens sweaters hanging in the closet and plaster walls waiting for repairs. I have vague memories of my grandfather gardening, a large man with a mop of white hair doubled over the daffodils. The daffodils come back every year. They must be older than I am.

I didn’t feel any divine inspiration getting the bulbs into the ground. I hope they are deep enough, spaced far apart enough. I hope they are all upright! I am surprised by how often my thoughts drift to the bulbs, and what they are doing there under the surface. They are preparing for something. I think I am, too.