Fertility, the future, and what falls between

Flowers and trees
  • Aperture: f/6.3
  • Focal Length: 300mm
  • ISO: 200
  • Shutter: 1/1000 sec
  • Camera: NIKON D80

Northport, Alabama

I’m a thunderstorm in the making, hot Santa Ana winds scorching through me, a cold nor’easter howling down from the hills. I’m passionate and bored, frustrated and content, writing words in flames as a pervasive hoarfrost creeps over them. I’m restless. I’m ambivalent. I’m happy. I’m sad. And sometimes I’m nothing at all.

The air today was much the same, hot mixing with cool, blue skies blending with a hint of something darker. It felt dangerous. It felt right. And so I did something I don’t do very often. I let go. Walked away.

I wandered rows of sweet smelling basil, crushing the verdant leaves between my fingertips. I inhaled the pungent chemical tang of lanky tomato plants and pulled strands of chives through my teeth, heedless of the soil still clinging. I rubbed velvety folds of lavender over my lips, brushed my cheek against deceptively soft needles of rosemary.

I left the BlackBerry, and its cold empty screen, in the darkness of the trunk.

Back home, plants strewn along my flower bed, I pondered the way time passes. A year ago today, I was boarding Amtrak’s Crescent, giddy-terrified, dreading, hoping, pacing, praying. Because I took the train to Philadelphia, I drove to Pensacola. Because I drove to Pensacola, I flew to Philly. Because I flew to Philly, I flew to Boston. Because I flew to Boston, I drove to New Orleans. Because I drove to New Orleans, I drove to Ashburn, Ga.

Again and again, I slammed my shovel into the hard earth, tears glistening, a wry smile playing along my lips. Perhaps I would have kept crying, mud streaking my face with every backwards swipe of my glove. Instead, I stopped to watch a long, purple worm writhing in the rich, black soil. What a wondrous world, this mystical place where I live so seldom. I spend my days trapped in my head, lost between the past and the future, trapped between regret and disappointment. And yet, life goes on.

The Early Girls I planted won’t bear tomatoes until June. The Red Beefsteaks will take even longer. I will be 34 by the time the red and yellow bell peppers hang heavy from their branches. The air will be turning cooler and thoughts will be turning to football by the time the lavender is tall.

Three months feels like forever. Six months feels like an eternity. I’ve made the commitment, and the best is yet to come. I know this. There’s satisfaction to be had in keeping these fledgling plants alive in the dry onslaught of summer. There’s a muted joy in dreaming of that first taste, that first moment when all the work and waiting finally comes to fruition. So much can go wrong before anything goes right. And even then there are no guarantees.

My snapdragons were lovely for only a few days. A storm destroyed them last night, leaving a few ragtag blossoms for my desk, but they were intensely beautiful for the time they lasted. There’s nothing else that can be done. The worm will someday wriggle along my spine. The breezy afternoons will give way to a pallid stillness. The fires will smolder, then ash over. Such is life.

And even knowing this, still the soul screams “Not yet! Not yet!” And still the lips whisper, “Please.” And still the eyes close, and the head bows in deference. The ways of the universe are deep and wide, black velvet strewn with a Milky Way of dreams. They can’t be rushed.

Music: 12 Bellvue by Kathleen Edwards (lyrics)

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