I am healthy; with food to eat, a place to live, and even WiFi to work online from home and access the world. Loneliness is like a stranger to me when I have a husband who loves me and a mischievous cat to entertain in our one-bedroom apartment. I know all these things, yet feel an emptiness nagging in my thoughts. It’s easy to lose hope when there seems no end in sight to the misery circling our globe, mistrust in our leaders, fear of spreading the COVID-19 virus, and a loss of control in planning the future. I wake up to more bad news and pray for all the hopeless people struggling just to get by as injustices, racism, and income inequality invade the population like weeds in a garden. The clouds of despair will eventually roll through as we adjust to our new life of uncertainty. The sun will part from the clouds and shine a little more as we take one day at a time with each passing week.
I understand why 2020’s events are being canceled and while I cannot deny my disappointment, I am relieved that precautions for the people are valued over plowing through with scheduled plans. One such future endeavor that I was most looking forward to was opening day for the community garden program held at the Elkhart Airport plot. This would have been an opportunity for me to plot out my space and grow vegetables in the earth while learning from local gardeners with experience in the Michiana Master Gardener Association. All face-to-face summer programming was canceled with the intent to keep our community safe in the state of the unknown. I have my whole life ahead to experiment with gardening, but I don’t need to wait another year to continue the journey.
This spring, the Jagers start small with seeds gifted to us from family and new packages of promise from the rows of colorful images stacked neatly on display. On the beloved porch of our third-floor apartment, we plant flowers and vegetables that will grow into seedlings from Sprout’s windowsill until the weather warms up with more consistency for us to transplant to our container garden. Derek disperses a seed-starting soil mixture into the miniature cubicles for the Snapdragons, Johnny Jump Ups, Foxgloves, and Sweet Peppers to inhabit safely indoors. The seeds of Blue Lake Bush Green Beans soak in warm water overnight before planting to encourage germination.
The Forget-Me-Nots and Convolvulus flower seeds are directly planted outside in their containers under the protection of a fortress of chicken wire carefully crafted to keep the pesky neighborhood squirrel from burrowing nuts in the soil. I created a similar fence to protect the pot of wildflower seeds meant to attract butterflies and hummingbirds that may scout our liquid feeder in the coming months.
Our veteran plant, the holly bush, endured the winter outside with great color and life as well as the tulip bulbs that were planted in early autumn. We first realized that wire structures were necessary when the squirrels resurfaced our newly planted tulips for a mid-day munching session. The tulips survived both the elements and the wildlife with foliage that continues to lengthen each day. I look forward to the first sight of blooming in a few weeks’ time.
Sprout has been the guardian cat of the windowsill garden over the winter, gently rubbing her scent on the branches of the Bonsai Ficus that has been happily growing since I first took on the project in June of 2019. The cactus and succulents that shared the windowsill space with the Bonsai have been demoted to the porch to make room for a tray of seeds that need to incubate from a sunny spot. The squirrel seemed interested in nibbling the edge of the cactus so all the succulents were given chopsticks and plastic bags as a deterrent from the threatening conditions.
While it may seem tempting to dwell in anxiety and find comfort in our screens, I would argue that it’s only a change of mindset that holds us back from persevering the obstacles we face. Yes, plans will continue to change and some of these plants may not make it, but it’s worth every effort to try. There are also new plants that we could still try our hand at growing like parsley or cilantro to add to our meals. The porch garden holds a special significance for me this year as the personification of these seeds that will grow into sprouts and full-fledged plants that stretch their necks up to the sun as a beating life-source setting them free from their depths underground.
These plants give me something to hope for and tend to in the coming days, weeks, and months ahead. They have the potential to become happy, green plants that will continue to grow and transform as a cat, aptly named Sprout, sniffs their leaves in delight. Birds will flurry overhead singing sweet songs from the feeders while the squirrel collects all the seeds that scatter below. Life may be different, but the gift of life continues each day all around us with new possibilities; just like the seeds in our garden who are hopeful for the future.
“The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
“The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”