Digging in the Dirt: 83/365

We wake in the dark at 5:00 am and my head is still heavy with migraine. Toward breakfast the day reveals itself as grey gloom. This is how April always feels, like a big grey headache. Stark branches waiting for green. Strained sun. Mud.

But later on we find organic potting soil and compost on sale and walk out of the store into a bright afternoon.

At home we gather garden tools and I hack at the dirt, clearing old roots and tilling the soil while Isabella digs with her shovel. We leave the back door open. Two cats in the yard, life used to be so hard. They chase birds and squirrels and crouch beneath the arborvitaes and roll in the grass.

It’s not warm out, but Isabella is barefoot, pressing down the dirt with tiny toes. I mix the wildflower seeds with dry compost and rake them into the bed. There are hummus sandwiches, cat chases, a rest on the rock. Dirt on our cheeks and noses and under our fingernails. I find the watering can and fill it. Dig up another bed, plant sunflower seeds, the Mammoth Russian variety, along the side of the house.

Isabella blows bubbles, hair falling across her face, sun streaming through the maple branches, cats leaping after bubbles. She says, “come sit with me, mama” and “I love helping you, mama.” I sit down next to her and she leans against me and we smile into each other’s eyes.

On the back steps, inside this April afternoon, we are tucked in the space of dreams, a flash forward I conjured three years ago in wishes and prayers and daydreams, wondering if it would ever come true. Here we are, together, as if by magic, caked with dirt, smiling. The spectacular ordinariness of us.








Tethered: 48/365

Some days I’ll do almost anything else,
Wander the house, tackle the ironing, dusting, I’ll shuffle
This pile of papers, those books, to another more sensible place

from Ingrid Wendt’s The Simple Truth

A trip to the store, a long run, dishes, laundry, shoveling dirt, pulling the wheelbarrow that was too heavy to push, grading the garden bed, watching the squirrel eat an apple, salt air, Isabella walking up and down the Bilco doors trying to reach the cat in the window. The golden light that takes a little longer each day to surrender. I didn’t even try to sit down at the computer today, didn’t try to write. But here I am now, before bed. This daily practice keeps me tethered. I have to sit down and examine, figure out, come up with something. Every day I have to return to myself, look myself in the eye.

Indoor/Outdoor: 47/365

In the golden late afternoon light we dig in the dirt. Chris does most of the shoveling and Isabella works with her sifter and pails making little contributions to the wheelbarrow. I work in the bed around the maple tree, raking and grading the hauls of dirt. I press it down with my boots, doing a little two-step to the music. The squirrels come to say hello. We’ve been keeping them fat with bird seed and apple peels. I look up and see the cats watching us from the backdoor, bathing in the bright sunlight. Bali, the little one, for once isn’t scratching to get out. The air is cool and smells of earth. That kitty would love to be out playing in it. And I feel a real heartache.

We moved into our house in August. Before that, we had a second floor apartment with a porch, Bali’s favorite spot. She would hunt birds from her perch, roll around in the sun, curl up on the ledge, and a few times, she jumped. Now we have a big backyard, and she darts from the backdoor to the window itching to run after the squirrels and birds. But we also live on a main road and people drive twice the speed limit. The previous homeowners lost a cat to a speeding driver. We tried a leash, but she wriggled free. Cats aren’t made for leashes. I’ve been stuck in the house so much this month with sickness making the rounds, I’m going stir crazy. I think of her never getting outside and think about how unfair it is, unhealthy really. I’m struggling with this one, whether to keep her safe or set her free.