The constant gardener

mexican limeIt feels indecent, the way I inspect my semi-dwarf Mexican lime tree, looking for signs of happiness or illness. There’s a lone grown lime on a branch, the size of a large glass marble, which I use like a scrying crystal to try and diagnose its bearer’s future. The tree spent a week in one corner of the patio before I made the wholly unscientific and faith-based decision to drag the heavy pot to a sunnier spot. When I find new flower buds on its stems finally, after weeks of wondering whether or not it has responded to its new environment, my devotion surges with a vigor I find a little unsettling.

tumblingOf my three tomato plants, the bushy little Tumbling Tom in a broad terra cotta pot has started to fruit first, its savory-smelling foliage dotted with sunny flowers. I squat down between the two eucalyptus trees whose thin bark is molting in the early summer heat. I lean against the larger trunk to search for the little green orbs at the end of the shriveled blooms. It takes restraint not to rummage through the leaves. I am mad with curiosity.

And my worms! For my worms I save my most devout voyeurism. I am endlessly fascinated by this little environment I’ve made. Though there are flies and beings of all kinds in there, it is the worms I care about. I lift the wet newspaper every day and disturb the nematodes annelids as they writhe and dine and possibly copulate en masse. I got gloves in preparation for digging up their castings, and a special pump-activated atomizer that oh-so-gently moistens their bedding of coconut coir and shredded Korean-language newspaper, reserved from a trip to the local nursery. I wrap the front of the composted with foil to regulate the morning heat. I open the spout to check for runoff. Oh no, I’ve fed too much. I haven’t fed enough.

It ain’t right, and I know it. I worry that these are unhealthy obsessions for a single woman who works from home, typing madly, bathing her face in the bluish light of a computer screen, speaking aloud only a few times a day. My friend Jeanne in Brooklyn sends me a care haiku via text message.

I’m worried about u

Are u spending a lot of time alone

Go to the library

But I am helpless against the power of my infatuation. Surely the tiny flowers that bloom under my intense adoration are an affirmation of something reciprocal. Here I recite the only bit of Shakespeare I still have committed to memory:

I know I love in vain, strive against hope

Yet in this captious and intenible sieve

I still pour in the waters of my love

And lack not to lose still


One thought on “The constant gardener

  1. It strikes me as the opposite of unhealthy to be involved in the active food-growing environment outside, especially if you work alone at home! I mean, I am in the same boat, so of course I think it’s normal, but still. It helps so much to have live things to care about.

    Also, thanks SO MUCH for getting REM stuck in my head first thing in the morning. 🙂

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