I live in a guest house in a green part of Los Angeles, which I rent from a wonderful doctor. She owns this large property (which has a second guest house on it, in addition to her house and mine), and employs gardeners who come every Sunday. They seem to be nice, gentle men, and I have no choice but to trust them.
Lately on Sundays, I keep forgetting that they are coming – noticing only when the leaf blower comes far too close to my open front door, blowing gas fumes and debris through the screen into my home. I honestly wish they would stop using the leaf blower on my porch, and have asked, but with the language barrier, I don’t think they understood. So, there is nothing to be done about that, really. Just keep the door closed.
There are wild, untamed morning glory vines growing all over my house. Some of them I have trained to climb the walls, while others I have coerced into creating an archway above my door. At a glance, my garden looks untended, unloved, but nothing could be further from the truth. I treasure this garden. The lush green, the bright purple flowers, the lizards, the hummingbirds, the squirrels, my cat and I all get along harmoniously.
There is a small section of herbs which I planted 4 years ago, and marvel at their tenacity. Rosemary by the gate. Mint, growing wild and free a few feet away. Lavender, which is just now starting to flower. Oregano and thyme, which I use to cook with, and basil, which I can’t seem to keep alive, but never stop trying. I tend to these herbs as best I can, keeping them safe from the intrusive vines whose nature it is to take over everything else.
These last couple of months in isolation have been very strange. There are swaths of time where I don’t feel motivated to do anything – even the simplest of tasks seems too complex for me. It’s as if I have an allotted number of things I can accomplish on any given day, and seem to bottom out after only 4. So, then, yes, I have neglected my garden. I have neglected the herbs. I walk by them and think “I really have to cut back those vines”, but did not do it once in the last 30 days.
Yesterday was Sunday. Gardener’s day. I woke up in a decent mood, and remembered to keep my door closed. Once they were long gone, I stepped outside into the warm, afternoon light. I walked down from the porch and looked around. It was untouched – the morning glories were wild and free as ever, the weeds still jetted up a good 5 inches. I think to myself that they must have had their hands full with the rest of the property, and spared my house. Which was a kind of relief, actually. I appreciate that she employs them, but they never seem to care for my garden the way I would like. I took a deep breath, mentally going over my plans for the day and decided that today was the day to finally trim those vines near the herbs.
But what I saw on the other side of the gate, in my herb garden, broke my heart a little bit.
Only dirt. Where once, only hours earlier, there were lush green herbs, now only dirt. They cut down and removed my rosemary. They dug up my mint, my oregano and my thyme. The lavender was spared, as was the jasmine and the baby olive tree. The basil was gone. The trees were pruned back a painful distance. My Eden was disrupted. No, it was robbed. I stood looking in disbelief. It was the loss of the mint and rosemary that hurt the most.
Why would they pull up all of my perfectly good herbs? Sure, there were a ton of vines circling them, but couldn’t they be spared? It hit me so hard, this loss. It was a symbol of my own powerlessnes, my inability to meaningfully shape my life right now during this pandemic. I wanted the relief of tears, but held myself together. Lost herbs are not a thing to cry over, Liz.
What could I do? My landlady is a doctor, and the last thing she needs right now as she works endless shifts helping people is her needy tenant complaining about poor gardening choices. As for the gardeners, I don’t know how to reach them, and what would I say? There is nothing to be done. Truly. Nothing to be done, except to accept what has happened. Accept the loss. Accept that we are not in control. I am not in control.
I see the parallel in so many areas of my own life. There is a long-time situation on my mind which I just cannot seem to accept and move on from – still very much in bargaining phase of my grief there it seems. But in that situation, in the powerlessness that is living in the time of Covid, as well as this loss of herbs, there is nothing to be done short of acceptance.
I cannot save what has been uprooted, I can only plant new seeds.