I’ve been doing a lot of gardening lately. Last year we spent the spring and summer just watching to see what would pop out of the ground. Watched to see where the sun would fall during the day and season, watched to see where the water pooled and where it ran off quickly, watched to see what was thriving and what was struggling. I planted four rhubarb slips, because you know, rhubarb. We had one itty bitty harvest last year, but it was a start. I threw a fifth one into the patch a couple weeks ago, and now the Gang of Five is plotting. It’s ok, I’ll have the last laugh. I have rhubarb recipes out the wazoo and a full-size freezer.
Digging in the dirt is my reward for surviving another winter, and on beautiful days I try to get out and see how it’s all growing. I’m not a great gardener, more of a “throw it in the ground and pray nature knows what it’s doing” kind of person, but I enjoy it. It gives me quiet time to think. I usually don’t listen to music while I’m out there, unless I have some heavy exertion in front of me and then it’s The Dropkick Murphys all the way (last week I was digging holes in sod in high heat and humidity, trying to get perennials a friend gave me into the ground before they croaked…”Kiss Me, I’m Shitfaced” came on and thank god for that boost; my poor neighbors got to hear me sing along and yes, I know ALL THE WORDS to that NSFW song). Quite a bit of “If This is a Gift, Can I Send It Back?” was written in my head while I tried desperately to do something with the landscaping at our previous house. The language of birds and bugs and frogs and grasses…they calm me.
Which is good, because the world is a pretty messed up place these days. I try to have hope, but it’s tough when every time you turn around there’s another pile of shit being flung at everyone’s fan. It’s far too easy lately to go spinning into an anxiety-riddled vortex of “this hand-basket is heading in a southward manner at an increasing rate of speed and who the hell is driving?” I’ve moved past dystopian novels and straight into alien invasion stories; I’m past wishing for a reset button for my life and now wanting an enormous DO OVER switch for the planet. You could live in a news blackout cave and you’d still feel the stress of the world, simply from interactions with others. Everyone I know is in pain, suffering from a debilitating case of daily life. Hate and fear are everywhere, infusing everything with their sour stench. Some days it’s hard to keep going, knowing that beyond your own personal bubble the world is a giant game of Jenga, and you’re just waiting for that final brick to be removed and it all come tumbling down.
So I open the door and get a dose of Vitamin Get The Fuck Outside.
It’s not a perfect solution, but it helps. I water my garden in bare feet, feeling the grass scratch my ankles and the dirt work its way into the cracks and crevices of my feet. I revel in the heat from the bricks on the patio, and scrunch my toes into the mud, trying to connect my soul to that of the earth, to something solid and eternal. I sweet-talk the Gang of Five and order the new perennials to GROW, DAMMIT! I cheer when I see fat and happy bumblebees, and curse heartily at the wasps building a nest under my kitchen window; I must remember to obliterate those fuckers ASAP. I get out of my head and out of the chaos of the world and try, try so hard, to find peace in the nature around the house.
I don’t know what I’m going to do this fall and winter, when darkness and cold descend upon northern Illinois just as we enter the final stretch of this hellacious election cycle. I can work off anger by shoveling (again, “Kiss Me, I’m Shitfaced” is a fantastic shoveling ditty), but I can’t do it barefoot and the birdsong will be just a memory. Guess I’ll live under my Happy Lamp…which needs to be replaced because I wore out the old one.
Get the fuck outside, people. Fill your souls with dirt and sun and warmth, not the screams of insanity we hear from our screens. There’s plenty of time for that when it gets cold, and there will be more than enough craziness to go around. But for now, go get a hefty dose of Vitamin GTFO; it will inoculate you against today’s world better than pretty much anything. It poured last night, so no need to water the garden. Instead I will just walk around barefoot, talking to the plants and muddying my feet, filling my tanks with sun and peace. It’s the best I got right now, and I hope you can join me.