PEAS HAVE OPINIONS
In our garden, the peas will grow from St. Patrick’s Day onward, quick up sticks and strings for the little pea-fingers to grasp. Peas are a rare treat; I eat them raw, sweet, sad to have so few after I shell them if no one tells me no. Papa used to blame blackbirds for his scanty empty pods still on peavines, but looked at me while he told Gram that story. He showed me how to unzip carefully to not lose a pea from the pod. I’d helped to plant them, I mourned when we thinned them, and my share never reached the kitchen. In our garden, we shall have peas and I will not eat them all up unless no one bothers to stop me.
In our garden, herbs for cooking and herbs for making us healthy and happy will share space with the peas, then smother the empty vines. Basil and parsley and garlic chives and thyme ring in my ears like music. Things for tea will mingle together, so that anyone can rip a handful of green from the tops and have something to drink with a little honey. The rosemary wants to stay in her pot, after all she’s been through, and be bolder yet again at the end of another summer. Rue just for the carpets, lavender for everything, catnip and chamomile for sleep, lemon balm for our throats, and bee balm for the bees. In our garden, bees will be happy. We need them to be happy.
Flowers shall fill every space between the herbs. Beautiful things feed us and soothe us as well as beets. In our garden, zinnias and cosmos and coneflowers and other thready-rooted things belong among the onions. Lilies deserve top billing, a favorite, worthy of the sacrifice of a little root vegetable space in the soil. One thing up, one thing down, one after the other after the other. Green beans chase up the same strings as the now-dry peas, but taller. Sunflowers and beans get along so nicely, like tomatoes love basil for the up and carrots for the down. I used to know the rapid-fire patternings of successive planting by heart, and crop rotation and tilling schedules…
In our garden, there will be no tomatoes.
Maybe one. I like the way the fuzzy-hairy vines feel, and the way the sun-warm fruit falls off into my hand. The job of going to the garden for The Tomato for Supper was mine once I was old enough to make a good decision about which one would be perfect today but mush tomorrow. I do wish that I liked the taste of a tomato, but I’ve given up on that.
This spring, I shall plant a garden anywhere I can find enough sunlight. Can I put green beans in the front yard? What about basil and thyme and zinnias and carrots and beets and onions? Can I till the lawn into luscious black soil, or do I still live in a series of planters?
The rocks came along. They don’t care where they live, but peas do not grow well in pots. Peas have opinions.
In our garden, I will forget to remember why no garden but the one I planted as a refuge ever flourished. The soil I stood upon then was made of different stuff, so many generations of the same tomato that no tomato would grow there for seven years. I will forget that the garden that exploded into life and made cabbages as big as basketballs was put in place only to feed my then-empty heart. It did. Everything in that garden at the house that isn’t there bloomed radically and shockingly, forty sunflowers to a stem when there should have been one, with neighbors stealing the seeds in the hope of the same thing happening for them next summer, and so many tomatoes that the man who stole three a day on his walk through the alley was a relief.
Always too many tomatoes, but my stem-crushing masses of sunflowers were just plain sunflowers down the street the next summer. In the garden where I slept and prayed and grieved and celebrated, the sunflowers kept me alive with their inspiring aggression and the spearmint erased any stink that clung to my dresses when I walked away from the real world where only one sunflower per stem grew in smaller yards of prettier houses.
The catnip was just a lure, always flattened, like I flattened the ever-widening swath of spearmint. Less lawn, more good things to eat and drink and smell.
In our garden, Papa’s irises will finally bloom again. I came back to them in October, and they’ve asked for more sun. The daffodils seem happy, dutifully giving yellow to the gray-green world when yellow is the only new color available. There’s enough spearmint to sleep in again, after my long absence. Nowhere but here has it survived, and I am grateful that it waited for me and pushed out whatever evil anti-spearmint agent hides in the soil of this other, better town.
This spring, I may not get those peas. This summer, I may not get a single leaf of basil, but we shall surely have the best, sweetest spearmint, enough to keep us in tea and mojitos and spring rolls and great vases of it brought into the house for flowers if flowers do not grow.
I can make do with those pots in case our garden doesn’t happen, but when I leave again, the spearmint’s coming along in a pot whether it likes it or not.