It’s that time of summer when I’m beginning to fantasize about next year’s garden. Because this year’s garden is a hot mess.
My garden dreams begin in July. I open the garden gate (open here meaning wrestle, because the gate is not in any way actually attached to anything. One of these days I’ll get to that). I have to snap through tentacles of morning glory, a plant which I understand some humans intentionally cultivate, but which one of several banes of my garden’s existence. I feel like I am finishing a marathon! I break through the finish line! Snap!! I win!!!
But I do not win. I lose. This garden doesn’t look like a garden. It looks like the set of a Jurassic Park film. There are raptors living in here somewhere. I am sure of it. There’s certainly room for them to hatch, live out their life cycles, and die, completely unnoticed by the human eye.
Perhaps my greatest strength and weakness as a gardener is curiosity, a sense of horticultural adventure. It is this curiosity that leads me to try new varieties every year, despite knowing that there are specific ones that will definitely do well. Curiosity prevents me from pulling interesting-looking weeds, wanting to know what they will become. Maybe they will be something good! Something beautiful! Something fun! (Spoiler: they will not. They are weeds. By the time I have accepted this truth, they will have set seed and gone forth and been fruitful and multiplied themselves with wild abandon all over the garden, which has become their new promised land, a land in which they will slaughter the current inhabitants and reign supreme.)
Curiosity also stays my hand when a squash plant that I did not plant pops up. A squash! I should let it grow! Maybe it’s zucchini! Maybe it’s pumpkin! Look, there are three of them!
But they are not zucchini, pumpkin, or anything else anyone other than a chicken would ever want to eat. (I know that chickens will eat them because when your garden gate is not really attached to anything, and you have chickens, one of them named Amelia for her resemblance to the ill-fated aviatrix who insisted on flying further and further from home, chickens, like their relatives in Jurassic Park, find a way.)
By the time I realize that these squash are only fit for chickens, who will eat almost literally anything, the three cute baby squash plants are rampaging monsters that have taken over the carrot patch and are swiftly encroaching on the beans. Of course these useless volunteers are the most robust plants in the entire garden. They burst from its center like a kraken erupting from the ocean, flinging their thick green tentacles in all directions, snatching at everything in their wake and pulling it under. I, the gardener, have unleashed the kraken in much the same manner as Pandora opening her box, except that there is no hope hidden in the burgeoning blossoms of this monster, just a bunch of really random-looking and totally inedible (except to chickens) squash. By the time I realize what I have wrought, it is too late to save the carrots. The naked ear cannot hear vegetables scream. I imagine them perishing silently and stoically, captains all.
Every year it is the same. This year’s garden begins well, orderly, contained, controlled. By July, it is a teenager who is so over me and stays out late drinking and partying, who flips off old ladies at gas stations and has unsafe sex with every last pollinator who strays too close. July’s garden is a hellion. There are tomatoes in there somewhere, I think.
I need to wade in there and pull out those demon-squashes. I need to dig the potatoes that might be hiding under what looks like a lush carpet of lawn. It’s rained buckets all summer. It’s supposed to rain all week. By the time I can get into this garden, the squash plants will likely have become sentient. Perhaps all that can be done at this point is to stage an outdoor performance of Little Shop of Horrors.
But next year’s garden? It’s perfection. You should see it. There’s not a weed in sight. Everything is mulched, intentional. I have finally bothered to set plants in straight rows instead of thinking that I, who cannot hang a picture evenly, can eyeball the placement of pepper plants.
My writing has become like this year’s garden. It’s a bit out of control, and very unintentional. I’ve neglected it, and in the meantime, strange things have burgeoned under cover of sheltering avoidance. I need to get in there and pull the weeds, find the magic struggling toward the sunlight. I finished querying Vessel, which is both a good and a strange feeling. I’ve sent queries everywhere I can, and now it is not time to wait, but to wade back in to the projects I’ve ignored and put off, and start making some sense of them. No more excuses. I start today.
And then, once the soil has dried out, I am taking my vorpal sword into the garden and I am going to do battle with the jabbersquash, and I am going to win.