I’ve been doing some stress gardening lately. It’s a lot like stress cleaning, but with more dirt and sunshine. (And sweat, of course. It’s August.) It’s a practice that has felt natural and necessary as we endure another massive wave of Covid here in Louisiana, driven primarily by our low vaccination rates and high proportion of unwavering anti-maskers. It’s been hard to hear every day of someone else we know who is quarantined or sick, some of them very sick.
If that were not enough, my oldest is starting school for the first time (as a freshman in high school) and Craig’s workplace is not a safe place right now. Despite how closely this pandemic is hitting us, many people, including some I love dearly, are still choosing their preference not to mask over protecting those around them.
And it is hitting extremely close to home – I got an email from our nearest hospital last night explaining that they are so overcrowded that they are going to be rescheduling appointments. One of the board members from Craig’s school needed to be admitted with Covid, and there simply wasn’t a bed for him. He waited two days before it was his turn.
There’s not a lot I can do about other people’s choices, so I’ve been pulling weeds. Gallons of them. The summer plants are mostly done, so I pulled out the sad-looking bush beans and the dried-up sunflowers. I’m still battling the blackberries that took over the back corner of the garden and threatened to overwhelm our yard and our neighbor’s. Slowly, something resembling order is rising out of the chaos.
Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin, in their vision for the Catholic Worker, spoke often of the need for scholars to be workers and workers to be scholars. Right now would be a bad time for me to live entirely in my head. But being on my knees, hands in the dirt, working to make something beautiful has helped. If nothing else, any time I spend in the garden is time I’m not scrolling Twitter or reading the most recent nurse’s plea for people to get vaccinated.
Because most of the work has been in ripping out rather than planting, and because it’s been a blisteringly hot August, the gardens aren’t much to look at yet, mostly just bare dirt. Starting over is a slow process. Still, two weeks into my refocused gardening efforts, I’m starting to see a difference. The kale and mustard greens and cosmos by the front porch have sprouted. They are a very hopeful shade of green. The long vegetable bed that came with the house is now clear except for the tomato jungle and a couple of leeks, and the bare earth looks eager for new life.
We weather storms around here. It comes with the territory. Just how much this one costs us remains to be seen, but I’m sure we’ll get through it, too, eventually. But it may not be before I start harvesting all that kale.