As each day rolls into the next, Bill and I are now settled in South Boston on baby watch Linnehan. We’re properly quarantined, again, and hanging in our one bedroom flat, reading, cooking, maybe working, you know, really not much of anything.
I brought my sewing machine, the entire contents of my at-home in Buffalo pantry, my laptop, my cameras. I’m reading about and studying gardening, and yesterday had twelve herb pots delivered doorstep to plant in their small backyard. The course I’m enrolled in has had me study soil, and drainage. I’ve dug up three different samples of dirt and mixed it with water in quart jars, shook them all for three minutes each, and then let them settle for forty-eight hours. They are all so different, and all need different kinds of love. I dug a twelve-inch hole in daughter and sons-in-law backyard, filled it to the top with water and let it drain all the way down. Filled it again to the top and then measured and timed the water draining down, oh the things we do.
While writing this little intro my daughter and I are drinking coffee and I just made her a toasted, buttered English muffin. She said ‘mom, last month was the first March without a school shooting in the United States since 2002’. We haven’t fact-checked that, yet how incredibly unbelievable that school shootings happened like calendar work.
With that, here below I share my second week’s journal entry from my online organic gardening course, all about ‘a sit spot’. Of course, I googled ‘a sit spot’ before writing, and from what I found on the internet a sit spot is supposed to really be deep outside in nature, a place you go to really look, observe, reflect. My sit spot is right outside my kitchen door, if it were really far out, I would never get there at all.
The internet also suggested we all have ‘a sit spot’. I kind of think everyone is sitting in spots, and I wonder how it’s going. If you’re up for it, reply in the comments section, would love to hear how you’re all doing.
A Sit Spot
There’s a spot I like to sit, and I really like to sit there alone. That’s a remarkable thing for me to say, alone. I crave alone time and find it necessary and used to find it by running millions of miles, sometimes seven or more a day, my therapist telling me I was running from myself. Taking off for a run meant I didn’t have to deal, deal with kids, deal with dishes, deal with laundry, deal with anyone. Sure, I could work things out on those runs, uncomfortable feelings, think about things I wanted to do, goals I wanted to meet, and I always came home a better human, a nicer mom, a more engaged spouse.
I don’t run anymore, now when I don’t want to deal, I take off to the garden. Raking leaves, pulling weeds, even and particularly picking up sticks now settles me down and returns me a better person. I’m trying to get myself to sit, to not be so busy doing mindless things to fix my mind but rather to sit and maybe let my mind settle and fix maybe nothing.
So back to the spot: it’s a chair at a table and I look and face directly south. Around this table there are five other chairs, one to the right where my husband often sits, two across from me, and one at each other end, a table for six on the porch of our country house. I can see our pool, a perfect rectangle like this perfect rectangular table, the pool I pleaded for forever, and was dug when my baby was just a baby nineteen years ago. There are two locust trees, a straight little row, between me and the pool, and those my husband planted twenty years ago, he’s so very proud of them and tells me ‘they’re not messy’, oh what a quality. There’s also a small little garden bed with an old little tree, a tiny little apple tree I trim back several times over the season so that I can see the pool, I don’t like my sightline obstructed by those fast-growing shoots. ‘The Bishop’ planted that little tree back in the seventies, the decade he built the house and built out the property.
The little tree in the little bed used to be one of six little beds, all arranged like postage stamps with proper paths in-between, probably for the push mower the Bishop used to use to navigate easily between each little plot. When we first moved here, I could weed those things without ever really getting into them, he knew way back then that walking on those precious spots would compact his precious soil, so he planned accordingly. We’ve mowed over five of those beds in the last two decades, the only one remaining is the one with the small old tree.
Just beyond the little tree and the two locust trees there’s another garden bed. This one was added by the original owner, neglected by the second owner, and over the years we’ve nurtured it, made it larger and have even managed a little sheet composting. There’s a layer of mulch and some compost and over this a layer of plastic and over this some more mulch. I never like to see any of that plastic exposed, sometimes the dogs rough it up or sometimes the wind blows, and the rain falls and then I need to get up from my sit spot and promptly cover it back up. When I plant anything new, I need to dig a little hole through that plastic barrier and loosen that soil underneath to coax those little roots to spread.
That’s all about the summer sit spot. I tried sitting there recently, on the deck at the chair spot, there was no table and no chair, so I simply sat on the cold hard deck. I could hear the birds and see the birds, a cardinal in fact, and I could smell the smoke from the fireplace just indoors behind me where I really preferred to be, there on the floor in front of the fire instead of outside on the floor deck. I made myself sit there though, several times in fact over the course of a few days, and each time it got a little easier except for when it snowed, and it snowed hard, and this was in mid-April. I could last maybe ten minutes there, doing nothing but just sitting. But when I think about it, I was really doing more than just sitting, I was dreaming, and hoping, and looking.
I was sad that this summer there would be no big party. I had hoped to have a barbeque there on the lawn, with a tent, a small band, dancing. I wanted to party and celebrate the night away on the longest day of the year, Saturday June 20th, 2020 to be exact. To be surrounded by family and friends that are family, to eat chicken and drink wine and have fresh baked fruit pies. Catch toads, here crickets. Come nightfall there would be fireflies and my girls twirling like fireflies, barefoot. We would look up at the sky and pick out the Big Dipper and obviously the North Star. A midnight swim.
Not this year, no party. Oh, sure I can stay up, and do all of those things, but no tent, no band, no catered chicken dinner, no people from all over. I’ll be with my husband, and probably my children, my eighty-year-old mother, and maybe a new baby. I’ll cook, it will be simple, and special, and we’ll be happy, just us.
Is the universe talking to me? Stay still for a while. Sit quietly. It’s enough to be here, to celebrate small. To take time to just be.
The thing is I would do these kinds of big parties or dinners on the regular, enjoying them yes but also secretly maybe wanting less. I thought about this as I sat, that this summer indeed will be different, it will be less but also with the possibility of so much more. I can just sit. I can sit with a notebook, and regularly write. I could write recipes, I could draw garden plans or list out my plants, I could birdwatch with binoculars, or I could really just sit.
I told my husband about my sit spot. His sit spot would actually be away from the house so that he could really be all by himself, even though that doesn’t matter much because he can literally sit alone with his thoughts wherever he is, even among hundreds, which will not happen this season, or even come fall, or maybe even winter. It’s great he can sit wherever he finds himself, that’s a skill I think we could all use a little more of. We could all use to sit. The first time I laid eyes on him he was pedaling on a stationary bike, going nowhere, yet getting everywhere. He’s a man that has become, he’s raised a family, grown a business, continues to evolve. I think that his ability to just sit, to take things in, observe, to think without immediately reacting, to plan, to focus without moving, has served him (and us), incredibly well.
Maybe he’ll sit this spring and think about the soil that really doesn’t cradle his fruit trees, we now talk about tilth, and that the single most important thing we can do with our garden is to consider soil building, and soil preparation, not planting, not moving. Maybe we can all sit this spring and think about all that’s around us, and that step by small step we’ll come to a place without running or pedaling or parties that we’ll find is really just fine, just us, and those we hold dear.