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Gardening Beyond the Election

Pea shoots and onions in November.

I wrote the other day that I was as prepared for a negative result from this election as I was for my beet seeds not to sprout. I was mistaken. On some very deep level that I was not aware of, I was prepared for neither outcome.

I am sorry to report that the beet seeds have not yet appeared, which has me worried that my dreams of beet pickles won't come true. They are a taste of home that I love - earthy, rich, and a little bit spicy - but I may have to plant again. I suspect the caterpillar I spotted the other day while watering feasted his way along the rows, working in the coziness of sun-warmed soil. I am working on a solution even as I remain a little bit hopeful.

While I'm not a fan of said caterpillar just now, I know need to understand who he is and why he's there. I'm not angry at the caterpillar, but I am disgusted with a common system for dealing with him. "Just spray," says one of my fellow gardeners, and I say no.

"I'd rather try something else," I reply, and she nods perhaps a bit skeptically. I promise to tell her what I learn.

The caterpillar is there for a reason that I must discover and understand. Ignoring him or blasting him with a chemical does more harm than good to my soil, me, and the other creatures that help me garden. Ultimately, it only makes the caterpillar's offspring stronger. I need to figure out why he is there, what he is doing, and how to work with him. I need to find a way to balance his presence with the presence of others. I don't want to destroy everything because of one hungry critter in my soil.

At the moment, I do other necessary things and think. I weed, work on building up the soil in another part of the garden in preparation for the red onions that will go in the ground on Sunday. I harvest some winter greens, enjoy the sight of the first pea shoots breaking through the soil, prepare the potato bed for February planting, and think about how best to be ready for summer. I map out where the popcorn and tomatoes will go as well as the zucchini, beans, peppers and squash.

Similarly, I was not fully prepared for the result of this election. I could not imagine that so many people would choose the way they did. I wept that day and have each day since, because my vision of a better America, and even of America itself, feels far away. Unlike the garden, though, I'm watching things unravel at home in a steady and horrible way. Like my garden, I am looking for a solution even as I strive to remain hopeful.

Like my garden and my soil, this situation is my responsibility. It is my duty at this time to find a way forward that respects others and protects the integrity of each member of my community. Mostly, I try not to despair as my heart breaks, and I feel my own anger rise. I do not want to entirely give up on my country. There are things about my home I never knew I held dear beyond my family and friends. I am proud of our imperfect history and of many things that are American. I do not want to turn away entirely, even though there are moments when I think it might be a good idea. However, that is another form of despair, and despair leads to inaction or to anger and regrettable action. None of this is helpful.

It's clear to me that we have damaged each other enough, but I don't think it's over yet. I know that we need to come together and collaborate, but I'm still grieving and angry. Soon, though, I need to put that energy to good use finding a way forward. It's up to me to help with that, because I didn't do enough before. I wasn't paying enough attention to what was all around me when I visited home, what I heard again and again from both sides. I know, too, that there are no guarantees. I also know I will find people so entrenched in their beliefs that they will be more obstacle than aid. However, if I don't try, I am casting my vote for destruction. There is still a chance. I don't want to make the same mistake again.


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