For the first time in as long as I can remember, I’m not starting tomatoes and peppers this year.
It’s taken me several weeks to admit this to myself. I kept pulling out seed packets, and sorting through them, and then I just didn’t get to that next step, actually planting them. I don’t know what my topor is about on this front. Usually, I find starting seeds around the vernal equinox therapeutic. The first task of spring. Getting seeds in, waiting for the little sprouts, thinning them and transplanting them into bigger containers. We’ve shot round the sun once more, the light is coming back, there are new seeds and soon the garden will be back up and running and I’ll be eating my own greens again.
But this year, I just haven’t gotten it done.
Maybe it’s the ankle surgery which has taken the stuffing out of me more than I wanted to admit. It’s nearly better now. I still can’t walk very far, but I’m walking without a splint, and without much of a limp. I’m back on my bike in the mornings which is making both me and my under-exercised border collie much happier. But I’m behind. There are so many chores that slipped while I was stuck on the couch. The house is a mess. The laundry is done, but not folded. I’m finally baking bread again. The yard is full of dog shit and the veggie beds need weeding.
And it’s been a tough few weeks mentally. My cousin and her husband lost their beloved, charming, funny 26 year old son to opiate addiction. I couldn’t get home — I was still on crutches and the last minute flights were all multiple layovers — it just broke my heart. He was their only child and my godparents only grandson. There are very few times I regret moving away from my family and the people who raised me, but that was one of them. I’m heartbroken for them, and just wanted to be there, where I could give Denise, and her husband Fred who we love so much a hug, could touch them and hold my Aunt Daphne’s hand and even though he’d hate it, hug my Uncle Denny. We’ve all been through everything together, and it was so upsetting not to be there.
And then last week we lost Jim Harrison, only six months after his wife Linda, who I adored, died unexpectedly. I first met Harrison at UC Davis 24 years ago, and he’s one of the reasons I moved to Livingston in the first place — I figured if that wild man was here, and getting work done, then it had to be an interesting place. And for the year I dated the Mighty Hunter I got to spend a little more time with the Harrisons, since Dan guided Jim for decades. That was the year I got to go to the Three Nights of Amazing Food when Mario Batali came to town bearing white truffles, and huge steaks and the most amazing lamb meatballs I’ve ever eaten. But mostly, I’m friends with Harrison’s daughters, and I’d see him around town, and there was some smooching of cheeks, and you’d usually get groped a little because we loved him, but he was a dirty old man, and we all worried as we saw his health deteriorating. Linda’s death hit him hard, and while it wasn’t a surprise to hear he’d died last week, it was a shock. It feels like a planet imploded.
But seed starting has always been my stay against grief, and I’ve been kind of beating myself up, wondering why I just can’t seem to get it together. It might be that my wee greenhouse room is full of geraniums and books and ideas I’m working on, and somehow, I just didn’t feel like moving everything for seed trays. I’ve got a tiny bit of momentum again, and a space that I like working in, and every time I pulled out the seed packets, it felt like a distraction.
So, I called my friend Marnie. She starts tons of tomatoes and peppers every year. She’s got a bigger greenhouse than I do, and her starts are fabulous — tall and stocky and ready to go by Memorial Day, which is when we plant outside around here. I stopped by yesterday and we did a little seed swapping, and she agreed to start a few of the varieties I really love — Jaune Flammé and Principe Borghese for instance. And she showed me what she’s been starting, including a whole bunch or tomato varieties I’ve never planted before.
So here’s to sharing the load. Many thanks to Marnie for starting the seeds this year while I retreat to the greenhouse to write. And somehow, at some point, the yard will get cleaned up.