Gardening in the Spring (and Fall [of an Empire])

Is it just me, or does the American experiment feel a little extra shaky right now?

Taxes are almost due. Why should I pay my taxes? Here lately, it feels like a bad investment. 

Groceries cost too much. Fortunately, there are lots of good boycotts going on right now. Kellogg's really had the audacity to say “let them eat cereal” when most families probably can’t afford name-brand cereal right now anyway. 

Funny thing is, I actually like cereal for dinner sometimes. But store-brand cereal will eat good, too, I reckon. I’m not gonna say which store-brand, though, because all of them apparently use prison labor, which is legal slavery. Yeah. We’re still doing that here.

Am I boycotting Starbucks because they might support genocide or because my Cinnamon Dolce Latte venti quad is nine damn dollars? There are multiple genocides happening right now, and Joe Biden wants me to pay for at least one of them with the taxes that Donald Trump raised, and y’all want me to vote for one of these jokers in November. Billionaires run this country anyway. Can’t we just let Taylor Swift be president? She turns 35 this year. Do you think she would call for a ceasefire in Gaza? Can you imagine First Bro Travis Kelce in the White House? Electric.

I’m exhausted and disgusted.

That’s why I’ve been gardening. You look at the news or your tax bill or your cereal box and you just feel so helpless and hopeless sometimes. But gardening, when done right? That will do you good and help you, too, as my Dad would say.

I garden all year. I wander around the yard, just piddlin’. Pulling out stray weeds. Sprinkling seeds that my Mom gave me. Checking on the progress of my compost pile. Sifting through the dirt with my fingers while contemplating the universe.

I got a nice pair of gardening gloves for Christmas, but I can’t ever remember to wear them. Probably for the best. I think I need to touch the dirt. Learn its texture. Absorb all those sweet, sweet microbes that work like Prozac. My hands are becoming scarred and callused, but they create garden magic, and honestly that feels better than the manicures I can no longer afford in this economy.

You know what will keep you from doom scrolling? A walk around your yard with a plant ID app. I like Seek, personally, but I’m open to suggestions.

Fortunately, our future AI overlords have figured out that I like gardening. Have any of y’all made it to foraging TikTok yet? Alabama won’t expand Medicaid, but I made a really good antihistamine tea from the purple dead nettle I found in my yard. I added a few dandelion flowers, lemon balm, lemon juice, and local honey from Magic City Mushrooms, and I took a nap. 

(Maybe gardening isn’t your thing. Have you joined the nap revolution yet? I’m not a big napper usually, but I am a big fan of my hammock, so we will see.)

My yard has become my canvas. My grandmother told me that my great grandmother once told her that she wanted to look to the north, south, east, and west and see flowers. When she told me that over the phone, I was out in my yard, and I got chills. Yes. This is the goal.

I have a rose in my yard that came from a cutting my great grandmother snagged from Bellingrath Gardens. Her nickname was Aunt Sam, and I was named after her. Now I’m an Aunt Sam, and a mom, and every time we walk by that rose, my daughter wants to hear that story again about how it came to be.

I dug that rose up and took it with me when I moved from Tuscaloosa two years ago. It hasn’t bloomed yet in its new location, but it’s full of new growth. We will see.

When I bought my house, my canvas was blank. But now, it’s a work in progress. There’s no timeline to finish. I can just do as much as I can. 

Every time I yank an invasive plant out to make space for native plants or food or herbs or flowers, I feel a little less hopeless. It’s hard to feel hopeless when you see the first daffodil bloom in the spring. Daffodils are a testament to resilience. They are often the legacy of gardeners of the past who just wanted to make the world a little more beautiful. Even though those gardeners may be long gone, their daffodils push through year after year.

If you have daffodils, then you get poetry. And if we still have poetry, then we might be alright.

Planting a seed is an act of hope. And hope? Hope is an act of resistance. Death and taxes are inevitable, but so is spring. Hang in there.