Seedlings don’t grow in the dark very long—few things do. What they want are, at the very least, windows, a nice view, and maybe a breeze to muscle the roots.
June 24, 2016
For the first time, this year, in my adult green-thumbed life, I planted a seed. I planted all sorts of them actually: kale, lettuce, parsley, carrots, more lettuce, spinach (I didn’t have much light), impatiens (too much of that), bush beans, basil, begonias—most in the shadow of late winter, inside, just before Roanoke, VA exploded into its best self, into its life-bearing, bloom-kabooming self.
To my delight and surprise (why am I surprised? this is the way it just happens), a seed started becoming something that wasn’t a seed—I saw the first one and said Look! as if by some Jesus dance I’d done something unheard of, something from nothing, that kind of thing. And I kept dancing on each arrival, like Look! The kids are finally home! like Mom wants to be saying so badly back in Florida, but isn’t, because I have to be here, nine hours north of there, watering the plants.
[I’ve inserted Mom here somewhat abruptly. While the rest of this essay barely mentions her again (I know because I’m done writing the rest), you can go ahead and start imagining, if you like, that it does. That she is, maybe, more a part of this essay than I was originally willing to acknowledge. Or maybe I thought it was just too much to handle in one essay, and coming back to the point now is just easier. Maybe she doesn’t belong here at all.
In any case, this essay is, indubitably, about gardening.]
It’s the life-giving that makes it at first. The omnipotence that seems to follow the Here, this is mine, I made it fully, it is here because of me. It is one of few ways to be a literal, biology-making god: the Here, I have given life where there wasn’t. Until little life starts bending over on itself. On top of the refrigerator, where it is supposed to be cozy (I’ve read), they are molding and shivering and on their quick way to little death. Seedlings don’t grow in the dark very long—few things do. What they want are, at the very least, windows, a nice view, and maybe a breeze to muscle the roots.
What they want is a sun, who is another kind of god, who, despite the distance, has as much clout as I do, it seems, despite the fact that I put the seed there, that I gave it a home. Omnipotence comes in many forms, I guess—it comes in scattered pieces sometimes—one piece may be lost under the bed, or in another state for all we know—where is it?? [I was about to lie for metaphor’s sake and recall a jigsaw puzzle Mom kept beneath the stairs, in a closet above the water heater. It would have been a convenient way to bring her in. The puzzle would depict a scene from Bellingrath Gardens. I’ve never been, but Mom had a mug from the place. I’d imagine that one of the pieces had gone missing—under the bed, in another state?—to emphasize Mom’s lack of power to wrangle her children home].
Power to determine: full garden or most of a garden? Life, or most of a life, or part of a life, or just a little bit of life, before withering under the weight of a lack of light.
[If it isn’t clear yet, all this garden talk is absolutely a metaphor. I got a little side-tracked. We are getting dangerously close to a conclusion without saying anything about writing.]
I started writing seed poems when I put the babies in the bed, at the back corner of the yard. I was trying in those poems to understand what I was starting, I thought, to understand. The contradictions of becoming a god. That the voluntary surrender of power is a kind of power of its own—Here, sun, take the reins, do great things! That some things, despite all efforts, and for reasons unexpected or unseen, take off, or die. Every one of those poems grew leggy and bent beneath the weight of two unyielding hands, caked in philosophy—that same philosophy I was failing to apply to my own writing process—it’s hard to let some things go.
I must have wanted to write an essay or something. So I could use words like “omnipotence” and “contradiction” without the risk of total abstraction. [And insert extra qualifiers like this]. So I’m writing that essay here, and I am coming to certain conclusions that, if put into practice, may have helped me nourish those poems in the first place. Perhaps my garden has cultivated my theory more than it has my language—my garden is doing just fine these days [I try to send photos home when I can], and this essay is about to arrive at its own conclusion: Real omnipotence, real power, requires submission of power. It requires balance, and the ability, despite the difficulty, to say, Here, sun, my creation is at your will. Go, do only what you have to.