I’d been up all night with a cough and an upset stomach. And longings. And worries. The cap on my well was cracked. The recent rain made the house leak. And I was waiting for the electrician to show up to fix the outlet by my desk. It was dead and the Internet was dead. The list of things to take care of was long and all the NyQuil, soaked towels, re-booting, recycling, and flipping fuse-box switches had not helped. Nothing was working right.
By midday, it was past the time the electrician said he’d arrive. The well repair company had not called back. My stomach still ached. My head ached. Outside it looked beautiful so I stashed the cellphone in my pocket and walked the dog. Quickly, she did everything she could. She trotted back to the door and waited as I yanked a couple of stray plants. The garden by the front door gleamed with color. Sunlight and shade played on the foliage. Soon the dog and I were both pulling weeds.
“Whoa, look at the length of this vine, Suki,” I said to the dog as I tore it from the earth with my bare hands. She lunged for it as I tossed it aside. “Is this a flower or a weed?” I asked her, deciding to save it and wondering which of us knew more about gardening.
My friends don’t share their bulbs or culled plants with me. For years I warned them anything they gave me to grow would die. But this year I’d made an effort to trim and keep the weeds out of my garden. And every bit of tending had paid off. The daylilies, the daisies, and many mysterious forms of flora bloomed like never before.
“You have hydrangeas back here,” my friend Liz said when she came to saw off the thick juniper branches that bullied the butterfly bushes. We had stood together admiring the dahlias and petunias she planted for me. And now I was ripping up dandelion greens with the dog.
“The first sign of a snake or an earthworm, we’re quitting,” I told Suki.
An hour into gardening, I was singing to the single peony plant. I was singing to my daughter who died. The electrician had not shown up. No one had phoned. My fingernails were caked with dirt and Suki’s fur was riddled with burrs. But all the things that were missing or falling apart in my life had stopped shrieking in my head.