Saturday, March 13, 2004

Watching the sunflowers grow

Last Sunday morning I put some seeds into potting soil. Dill, catnip, marigolds (the properly tall ones), and more sunflowers than I could possible need. I planted the seeds in random makeshift starters - the cut-off bottom of a two-liter, old bowls I never liked anyway, heavy-duty cardboard boxes I can cut up once the seedlings take off. The seeds have been getting days of sunlight and nights indoors to keep them safe. By Thursday night the first sunflower had popped up, their heads still heavy with the casings of their former shells. Yesterday the marigolds came up. Today I'm hoping for evidence of dill, at least. The herbs will take longer, because the plants are so small, I suppose. By Easter, they should all be big enough to put in the ground.

I love watching sunflowers grow. They're so dramatic, they grow so fast, almost like slow animals, rearranging the dirt around them as they go. It's tempting to help the seedlings break through, but I know better; this pushing, this beginning hard part they need to do for themselves so they can build strong stalks. The sunflowers will all be around six feet tall, and I hope their heavy heads attract the songbirds. But we'll see.

Right after I got the seeds in the ground, The Republican called me and we had this huge "relationship" talk. It's sort of on hold until he visits next weekend, but of course I'm full of anxiety. You can't help these little things, right at the beginning. Pull the shells off the top of those seedlings and the plant won't grow. The light will be too harsh for the leaves not yet ready for sun, it'll shrivel up and die. Or in trying to get the seed shells off, you could accidentally pull the whole sprout out of the ground, and without roots to hold things together, the seedling is nothing.

I worry I've planted things too early. I worry that we're pushing around the wrong sort of dirt. But I only worry a little because - and this is a horrible thing to write but I'll write it anyway - I've done all this before. Many times. And I know what it's like to love somebody, or some town, or some thing, and to not get to be with that thing or place or person for the rest of your life. I know that people can be the best thing that ever happened to you, and still not be the person or place you end up with.

I loved Boston. I couldn't afford to stay. I've loved a few men who were good men but had lives to lead that didn't include me. On occasion, I've been the one to break it off. I've got places to go and things to do. Usually, when someone wants to talk about the future, it's the beginning of the end. The only thing you can really do in life is make your own plans and be confident that your decisions are, by and large, the right ones.

And that's life. I loved my cat, Mr. Puck; he isn't around anymore. I loved him as much as anybody could while we were together. But fate's a bitch, you know? The great loves of my life - and there have been a few - goddamn, did I love them. I've seen the reflection of grandchildren in a few sets of brown eyes. But my life and the lives of those owning the brown eyes had radically different versions of our own futures.

So when the Republican comes to me and says "I want to talk about the future", I cringe a little. Then I go out on the back porch, sit with Titania in my lap, and smoke while I watch my seedlings grow. Damn little plants. As soon as they establish themselves, things will just get harder. I'll transplant them. A lot of the sunflowers will need to be tied to stakes for support. There will be weeds and insects and hard rains. It takes so much work, just to get something to grow.

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