Every year, you promise yourself that you won't buy new flowers for the garden because every year you buy flowers for the garden and then the flowers die because you're not home much in the summer and the sprinkler system is complicated, being as how it is not a "system" but actually a pile of old hoses and the kind of sprinklers that kids liked to jump through in the 70s. And every year you say, "I'm going to save the money instead of buying flowers" and every year you buy the flowers, more and more, at the grocery store where you've run in to buy milk, at Home Depot where you stopped for a venetian blind, at the corner stand because it was there, until your garden is spilling over with blooms for a week or two weeks and then the deer come and eat them and they're gone. But for one week or two, they are there, huge and magnificent, buzzing with bees.
The bees make you feel like you are making a contribution to the world, or at least to the bee population. You buy the flowers they like best, dripping with pollen and a future.
You don't know what you're trying to say, but isn't that the point of writing things down?
It's almost summer holidays. The kids are like horses at the gate, pawing the ground restlessly, only they are wanting to burst through them not to race but to stop racing, to sit on the grass and be magnificently bored by the languorously slow summer days. They want to lurch to a stop. To fall over. To coast down a hill on something with wheels. To eat things straight from the freezer, sweet and cold. To float on logs in the still waters of the bay. To build something in a tree. To draw something, to read something (preferably in a tent).
Childhood isn't really different now than it was when you were a kid. People like to say it is so that they sound world-weary and aware, but facts are facts: the best sprinklers for jumping through are still the same ones. And nothing beats a tire swing, black rubber burning the backs of your legs, the way your brother is pushing you towards a cobweb in the ivy, you screaming with terror and delight. Delighted terror. Terrified delight.
Things don't really change.
The weather is grey today but pale pink poppies that are larger than your hand are waving in the wind and behind them is a stand of delphiniums that are so blue they make you believe in something bigger than yourself. Not love, because: reasons. The blue is really extraordinary.
Butterflies flicker like ballerinas, all proud and flutter-costumed, by the fuschias that spill out of their baskets.
Here is some news: You've sold not one book but two books, the books of your heart. You are not your garden but you also are. Things are verdant. A golden bird pecks seeds from the lupin and twirls in the air like a firefly, resting briefly on the mailbox that has brought good news and also contains the start of a nest, perfect hexagons built with relentless enthusiasm by wasps.
Is this optimism?
Optimists die young, you remind yourself.
You did promise the kids you wouldn't die.
And also, Disneyland.
At night, you dream in paragraphs and wake up panicking because you've forgotten everything but the first line. But I worked so hard! you tell your pillow. Damn it.
The night words were long grasses growing on a beach and rolling bands of fog over a grey ocean, splitting the sea from the blue of the sky. There was a body and a roller coaster and a man who was good at barbecuing and a child who vanished and a mystery and an answer and love and laughter and forgetting and dancing and eating and remembering and a celebration of being alone. It was so good that when you woke up, you were elated, flushed, victorious. Yes. There it was. But by the time you brushed your teeth it was all gone except the first sentence, which you wrote down on an empty toilet paper roll with an eyeliner. Now that you look at it, you realize it's a terrible line. It's not the first line, after all. You try to hang on to the shadows of the grass and the way the roller coaster shook the ground, but it's already dried and died.
The point is that there are more books in you, an infinite number, or maybe just one more.
Or, wait, three.
Some days are like this: breezy and overcast, but containing possibilities.
Over a quarter of a million people have applied to go live on Mars. It's a one way trip. They agree to stay there, forever. But what about the garden, you want to say. Think of what you'll miss: the way water pours through the forest in rivulets like veins pulsing life into trees and shrubs, weeds and moss. The greeness of that. Dogs barking. Poppies that cup the sun. Supermarkets overflowing with choices. The way seasons stubbornly roll around, faster each time. Sweaters. Low tide. The owls who call to each other all night in the trees. Seals flopping heavily into the sea from the reef. The way concrete smells after it rains. Campfire smoke. The outrage of children. Frozen burritos.
What are they thinking?
There is so much here. Right here.
You say the word "verdant" out loud. It's a velvety green word, leafy and just the right size to plant in your garden. Just don't forget to water it.
Anyway, there is still a rat in the rafters. Don't get ahead of yourself.