What do you do when you wake up to a snow storm and cancelled classes on the second day of spring?
I guess if you’re me, you buy a container garden kit from CVS and plant some seeds with one of your friends. I got a wide one with lavender, chamomile, and lemon balm, while she got two pots that came with lavender and some sunflower seeds. I’d like to think that maybe it’s because I’m so tired of the cold and the bleakness that accompany winter that I’ve gotten the urge as of late to actively start a garden (if not a full one, than at least a window sil one). There’s a book coming through the mail for me about what plants I should try to grow in order to attract more bees to my backyard, and there’s a free pack of wildflower seeds en route my way as well (presumably also to attract more bees).
I could also blame Thoreau (once again) for talking so much about his wheelbarrow and his seeds in Walden, having been good enough at writing that we’re still teaching him over a century and a half later, but then, I’ve been attributing too much of my personality to dead men lately, and there needs to be something of me that is innate and didn’t rely on someone else to get there. So I’ll own up to it: I want to garden. I want plants my life.
We’ve lucked out this year with a relatively mild winter—as opposed to last year, which left Boston with snow piles through June—so maybe it might sound bad for me to complain about a storm which, honestly, wasn’t actually that bad and didn’t even end up accumulating, but here I am. March has been really nice weather-wise, sometimes even getting up to the low 70’s on really good days (everything-else-wise? The jury’s still out), so the snow felt a lot like an affront, winter trying to sink his teeth into the ground and lay claim to it like he meant to back in January. It didn’t stick, of course: Two weeks of warm(er) weather was enough to deter it. The sun had already unfrosted the dirt on the ground and melted the snow almost entirely away by noon. Thank God.
I could get into a diatribe about climate change, about the fear present in my old earth sciences professor’s eyes when he decried global warming more than two years ago now, but I won’t. For one thing, I honestly don’t know enough about it, and for another, that’s not what I’m here for. I’m here to talk about plants.
My mother has kept a garden for as long as I can remember, and my nana is the president (or was the president) of her garden club. My aunt and uncle grow a lot of their own vegetables and even took up beekeeping. I’m terrified of bees, if I’m being 100 percent honest, but that being said, I think gardening is probably something I was always meant to be doing anyway. When I was younger, I could kill a cactus, but time has passed and I’ve learned more, have become better. Also, I’d rather grow my own tomatoes like my dad did than spend money on them. Maybe it’ll be a while before I can grow my own cucumbers, but at least I can start with herbs.
There’s a benefit to gardening too, in that the act of planting teaches patience (something I feel we can all stand to develop further), and it teaches a sort of responsibility. There are no major ramifications to a flower dying, but the world is always a little brighter when there are more of them alive.
I’m reminded too of a substitute teacher I used to have, an old doctor who enjoyed his job and the poetry of Emily Dickinson. He’s passed away since the last time I saw him, which is sad, but I remember when he would recite the poems he had written to us. There was one which discussed the process of teaching and likened it to the raising of vegetables, and when he would recite it for us, he would loudly begin, “GROW, BROCCOLI!”
I think I get it a little more now than I did back in 8th grade, just like I get taking care of plants a little more and, if we’re still talking about the presence of snow in March, then also “…a certain Slant of light” as Dickinson herself puts it a little better, too.