catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 8, Num 12 :: 2009.06.05 — 2009.06.19


Habits of the hands

I told people this spring that I wouldn’t plant anything in our yard because we were going to be out of town too much this summer.  I told too many people.  Because I lied.

Our housemate came home from a trip to find that I’d accidentally planted herbs.  But only basil, thyme, oregano, dill and cilantro.  Oh, and a hanging basket with mint.  I may have also planted some perennials that were left over from a plant exchange (what — was I just going to let them die?).  And zinnias and a little blue lobelia.  And scarlet runner beans that may or may not beat out the grubs.  Maybe a hydrangea, as well.

“I can’t help it,” I apologized.  “I’m weak,” I explained.  “It’s not my fault.”

Even though I’ve never been in a place where I could have a real garden of my own, every spring my heirloom perennial passion unfolds with the lilacs.  My great-grandmother’s rhubarb and tulips, still sprouting where she planted them decades ago, remind me that dirt is not just on my hands, but in my blood.  And like the wild morning glories that sprout between the abundant cracks in our driveway, the urge to grow something will always emerge through every crack in my intentions.

You see, my body is declaring that my virtual way of life will not stand.  I can hardly work a full day anymore before my eyes won’t focus on the laptop screen unless I peer at it between my fingers.  I’m not even thirty yet.  And when the most famous would-you-rather question of all time comes up — would you rather be deaf or blind? — my answer is always, “Deaf.”  I love typefaces and facial expressions.  I love old photographs and new leaves.  I love the way the colorful spines of books assemble on our shelves, like families in line for ice cream or vegetables on the windowsill. Wouldn’t it be the ultimate stroke of Twilight Zone irony if I lost my sight by doing one thing I love at the expense of so many other loves?

I fought hard this spring to keep my hands to myself — well, hard-ish.  And I failed.  But I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s best to simply give in.  There’s nothing I can create, on a computer screen or otherwise, that could or should overcome the created rhythms of the human body in harmony with itself, with others and with the earth.

Oh, I almost forgot: in the spirit of full confession, I also planted columbine seeds and bought a rosemary plant from the farmer’s market that I will try — try — to keep alive through next winter.  But I won’t be asking anyone’s forgiveness for neglecting to keep this particular word.  Rather, I’ll take the lesson in surrender and in listening, turning it deep into myself to see what might spring up in more abundance than before.

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