The first warning sign of spring is often a single daffodil peeping out of the green, and then another, and another, until suddenly, they’re everywhere. In the process, I can track the movement of the gophers through the seasons, as they persist in dragging the bulbs to strange places and then abandoning them when they discover that their flavour is not enjoyable. Consequently, I end up with daffodils coming up in the middle of the lawn or under my car or in other odd places, including in a planter that I completely emptied and cleared out last fall.
Our rather epic amount of rain has made headlines — atmospheric rivers and all — and the garden is deluged, but in the last few days, there has been a sense of something shifting. The days are slightly longer, the light more golden as it dawdles across the grass rather than racing for the horizon at the end of the day. Everything is painfully, brilliantly green, but it’s the flush of new growth that draws me, speaking to the potential of something larger than this.
Over the weekend I mowed the lawn, squelching across the earth and stopping periodically to clear out masses of soggy, partially masticated grass. Mowing the lawn has become a strangely contemplative thing for me — I put on a podcast (Sawbones), wedge my phone in my pocket, and trudge across the yard, watching things grow and shift around me. First it will be bright green and squishy, and then just green, and then it will turn yellow and the air will feel hot and dry and still, clogging my mask with dust and debris.
I have been home for almost ten years now, and have spent over six of them here, in this house. When I dream of home I still dream of my childhood house, which I haven’t set foot in for over 15 years. Someone bought it recently, I heard, and I try to shake off that unsettling sense of ownership. It was never mine, just a place I lived, but it’s so inextricably bound up in who I am. I wonder if that will ever happen to me again, if I will have a house that is part of me while I am part of it. If that is even particularly healthy.
I had lunch the other day with a friend I haven’t seen in nearly a decade. We ate dim sum and drank tea until they turfed us out for the next round, whisking quickly through the lunch crowd. The pea shoots were such a bright, brassy green but they tasted like spring and something else I can’t quite explain, and no, it wasn’t the garlic. Our conversation was stilted at first, before we gave up on trying to summarise ten years of existence and looked instead at the present, settling into old patterns and rhythms so familiar that I wondered how we’d allowed a decade to lapse. It felt like bringing two ends of a timeline together. It felt like coming home. It felt like I could stop reaching for something I couldn’t define.
‘I’ll call again soon,’ I said, and I hope I meant it. Maybe this is my year of making up for broken promises and rooting myself in the people around me. Maybe I will be less exhausted this year. Maybe I will do something more meaningful this year. Maybe I will organise the snarled messes that hide beneath the surface. Maybe.
Writing here exhausts me. Every month, as I sit down to write this post, the longstanding tradition of talking about the garden even though it feels so out of place these days, I wonder if this will be the last one I write. I’m not saying this to provoke expressions of pity — or anything else — but simply to state a fact. Writing is work, and I work more than ever before now, and attempting to triage work is exhausting, and sometimes I sit down and feel I have nothing to say anymore, not here, not anywhere. Intellectual labour is demanding and while there used to be an intrinsic pleasure in writing here — in thinking, in exploring things I care about, in developing my own skills as a writer — that’s less and less true these days. I suspect everyone who writes daily without compensation and often with minimal acknowledgment goes through this but I’m starting to wonder if it’s more than just a phase. When do you decide that something has outlived its usefulness?
I think about the handful of people who may have started reading way back in the summer of 2005 and I wonder how many of them have stuck it through the numerous evolutions of this website, have grown with it as I have grown. And how many lost interest, drifted away, moved on to other things. I think sometimes about how static all of this feels, how rarely people bother to reach out and say they appreciate it, how most often my interactions with readers are complaints, how demoralising that is. How I grow more frustrated, quick to anger, less interested in dealing with bad faith arguments and deliberate misreadings and complaints that things are not presented entirely to everyone’s satisfaction on a website most of them don’t even pay for, because who values work these days? Shouldn’t everything be free for the taking? Isn’t this a public service? About whether this is holding me back, whether I have become a dragonfly in amber, unable to move forward, slowly hardening. Bite down — am I bitter? Do I break your teeth? Do my wings flutter vainly against your teeth?
I sat down to write another minimalistic post with some pictures of plants and ended up with this, and since this is a year in which I am attempting to be both more honest and more unapologetic, I think I’ll run with it. I’m sorry if you came here looking for pictures of plants and ended up with this, but life is full of little disappointments, and maybe this is a year when we can all collectively acknowledge that most of us will never know what it means to get what we want, to find satisfaction, to feel complete.