I was going to write six thousand words about the mourning dove that made a nest in my arugula plant. But it flew away and never came back, so instead I’ll only write thirty five.
I could write six thousand words about sugar snap peas. The way that they grow, seeds planted way back when the air was still cold. Sprouts that turned into strong stems, spinning branches into tight coils. Forming a network of support to hold one another up. Growing little white flowers that become fruit, one by one. Slow, but sturdy. Good things come to those who wait, and sometimes clichés are true.
The seasons are longer when you are paying attention.
The garden has grown into a jungle overnight. Views obscured, city-scape camouflaged. Dense and green, almost unrecognizable. Some things stay the same. Basil, mint, lemongrass. A pair of shoes that hangs from a telephone cable, blowing in the wind like leaves. They might have been orange once, though now turned a subtle and mossy green. Blending in with the surrounding ecosystem. One of few perennials, surviving the winter alongside cabbage and cover crop. The closest thing to permanence.
It’s harder to see the birds now, they have more places to go. To hide. But don’t we all?
Morning light, smoke that smells like marshmallows. Chickadees flying between branches, waking up together. Leaves that dance against cloudless skies. Cold air that makes fingers feel stiff, wind that sounds like change. The days growing longer, breaths getting warmer. Somewhere in between seasons, not yet arrived. Never fully arrived, because there is no such thing as a final destination. Only learning, growing, blooming.
The garden beds are dusted with seed pods from the maple trees. They twirl down like ballerinas, dancing like tiny helicopters. Falling like snowflakes in April.
There is a vine in the garden that grew over the fence which is right next to the big oak tree, and now they are intertwined so that the vine climbs almost as high as my fire escape and the tree has an extra set of leaves.
A red balloon is trapped in the bare branches of another tree. It looks like that song about loneliness, the one that everybody sings.
Trying to find a voice, achieving the unachievable. What is a voice, anyway? An extension of personhood. The way that we communicate existence. But the plants have voices too, we just don’t understand them yet.
I wonder how long the red balloon will stay.
Mornings in May that smell like Maine in October. Coffee from the same mug, but it tastes a little different. Not quite as sweet, bitterness intensified by slightly spoiled milk.
Green garlic in a windowsill, light reflecting through empty bottles. They used to be filled with olive oil, wine, and vinegar. Now they just take up space, many flavors of emptiness.
How many lifetimes have passed on this fire escape? Three hundred and sixty five days, filled with infinite moments. Hours stretched as far as they can go. Outgrowing the trees.
How much longer can these iron bars hold me, up among the leaves?
Maybe home is not a place, not a certain set of plants. Home is wherever the moon is.
Mourning doves perched on a telephone wire. Digging into the warm dirt. Nesting in a bed of arugula, only to leave it behind.
Air that feels like rain is coming, but maybe that’s just how air always feels. Rain is always coming, eventually.
We keep talking about the calm before the storm, but what about the beauty that comes after?
There is a fence in the back of the garden that isn’t really a fence. It’s just two small pieces of wood, standing together in a patch of overgrown ferns.
A final sunrise. Tea with honey, periwinkle sky. Eyes open instinctively, birds chirp the sound of an alarm clock. Watching the first light shining through the lettuce leaves, dancing along the coils of the sugar snap peas. Frank Sinatra and Louis Armstrong on the radio. How do they always know what song to play?
One day you woke up and it was summer. Waking up before the world.
A final afternoon, air that feels like early fall even though it is May. The red balloon is still there. I wonder when it will leave.
It’s getting too hot for the sugar snap peas. Leaves are turning brown, flowers wilt and fall. Dry soil and shriveled tendrils are a reminder of colder weather and memories that have faded.
Tomatoes and peppers will take their place, growing yellow and red and plump. Basil will still be here — it always is — and mint that grows tall with confidence.
There is a lot still to be learned from the way that plants grow. Lessons of life and love and patience. Cilantro that flowers too quickly and loses flavor. Lavender vines reaching towards the sun.
Running out of words. These voices have taught me all that they can for now. The light is fading and the little red balloon has blown away, which means that it’s time to go.
Any last words? Thank you, maybe. For showing me how to grow, and giving me the space to do it.
I wonder if they will miss me when I’m gone — the plants must know that I am here, watching and learning. Growing like a garden in Brooklyn.