Reaping the Rewards of a Nearly Infertile Container Garden

Gardening is one of my most loved and longest standing interests.  It is also one of the things I am worst at.

 

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A single stalk of sweet basil, bravely flourishing after every other sprout in the pot fell victim to a bad case of being forgotten about in a grocery bag and subsequently exposed to near-freezing temperatures.

Okay, so maybe that’s not entirely true.  I’m definitely better at gardening than I am at other things that are easier to take for granted, like obtaining a driver’s license and telling time on an analog clock.  But it doesn’t come naturally to me, either.  I hate getting up early.  I have a terrible time remembering whether or not I’ve had anything to drink in the last twelve hours, much less whether or not my plants have.  It’s been four years since I had anything resembling an outdoor space of my own, and in that time I have lived in four different plant hardiness zones and six different apartments, all with varying levels of sunlight.  I know nothing about fertilizer, I am determined to grow tomatoes everywhere I go whether they belong there or not, and I base most of my planting decisions around which dollar store seed packet looks the most exciting.  My track record for keeping plants alive, much less thriving, is less than spectacular.

 

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Maybe I’ll get lucky and these incredibly sad pumpkin plants will bloom before they freeze to death so I can try my hand at squash blossoms.

 

All that said, tending to a tiny, misshappen seedling and seeing it put out its first leaves and turn into the sunlight is one of the happiest and most life-affirming experiences I can imagine having.  A plant thriving because of (read: despite) my care and patience and seeing that plant visited by pollinators and the curious neighborhood cats and the occasional asshole rabbit pointlessly taking a single bite out of every single tomato on the vine gives me a sense of calm and purpose that I don’t entirely know how to describe.  it’s downright inspiring.

 

 

 

Living in a house with a tiny plant sprouting in every room gives me the emotional stability and energy to do completely unrelated things: apply for new jobs, refine painting techniques, put more time into studying things I truly care about, share my thoughts with others without backing down at the last second due to overwhelming anxiety.  The list goes on.

 

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My first ever pumpkin sprout.  Her name is Brunhilde, and I love her.

 

Garden plants have been a wonderful muse to me for a number of years, and a celebration of their will to overcome my sheer ineptitude is long overdue.  Here’s to every grocery store cactus, underwatered bamboo, overwatered zinnia, and stunted rosemary I’ve ever been lucky enough to have in my home.  Each and every one of them was beautiful.

 

This post is a very loosely-inspired response to The Daily Post’s daily word prompt, “Muse.”

 

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Loki Taught Me to Apologize

No, really.

 

Learning to apologize is one of the hardest things I have ever done.  That kind of vulnerability is terrifying to me.  I didn’t grow up seeing apologies as a kindness, or even an uncomfortable but necessary part of life.  My unique blend of neuroses saw me grow up with an intense need to prove my worth, to live up to and exceed the expectations of my intelligence, a need to avoid being shamed.  I had – and still do have – an intense anxiety surrounding being caught in any social position that could possibly be construed as embarrassing.  If you talk around being in the wrong, is it still your responsibility?

 

Yes.  Yes, it is.  Loki, with both kindness and stone-cold resolve, showed me this early and often.  He proved again and again that apologizing is right, necessary, and makes you a better person.  Not in the lofty sense I thought I had to maintain from my stoic’s perch, but a better person to be around and invite into your life.  A safe haven, a good friend, listener, child, sibling, parent.  I didn’t learn this from my family as much as I learned it from my friends and from my god.  Trying to come off as faultless goes well exactly 0% of the time.  Everybody is flawed.  Everybody is flawed.  It’s just a matter of learning how to own this and grow with your loved ones as a result of it.

 

Loki taught me through myth and through personal circumstance that apologizing and meaning it, working to make things right without covering your shame, being honest about your flaws and limitations, is always, always the right thing to do.  It’s hard, and it hurts, sometimes, and it still makes me terribly anxious, and I am always rewarded for doing the right thing.  Being a better person than I was before.  Learning.  It’s a lesson I hope to pass on to the people close to me, especially the children in my life.

 

So much of Loki’s guidance in my life is centered on growth.  You can’t grow if you stagnate.  You can’t learn if you don’t admit to what you don’t yet know.  Honesty is a vital force.  Apologizing when you’re truly in the wrong, even when it makes you squirm, makes your life better, and it makes you a better person to your loved ones.  It made me an infinitely better friend to Arron, and later a better spouse.  Nobody deserves to be treated badly by somebody refusing to change and take their share of the blame.

 

The concepts of guilt and laying-blame are often misused to keep people in a state of shame, or over-apolozing.  The people who have most often lectured me about this have, ironically, been some of the most arrogant and openly manipulative people I’ve ever known.  That isn’t what this post is about.  It’s not about self-flagellation.  It’s not about blame.  It’s just about kindness.

 

This post was written in response to The Daily Post’s daily prompt, “Apology.”

Hel, Hailstones, and Long Walks in the Woods

I’ve been thinking a lot about Hel recently, moreso than usual.  Every time I sit down to meditate, or find my mind wandering while watching television, (Vikings is good and yet still somehow 20% more garbage than I remembered it,) or slip into a trance from the gentle monotony of washing large quantities of dishes by hand, it’s Hel that I think of and speak to.

 

I’ve gone on a lot of low-energy hikes on the clear, flat trails around my apartment lately.  My joints are in bad shape and handling my dog Djohariah (aka Jo, sweet girl, egg, and fucko) when she has a mind to run faster than I can is no picnic, but getting back to the woods and losing myself in the exertion and travel always leaves me feeling closer to my gods than just about anything else.  I’ve seen more deer in the last few weeks than any other time I can recall in my life, and nearly all of them have been gentle and calm and willing to lead me safely into the woods.  Away from the houses and the vacant lots and the human noise, I often get a peripheral glimpse of Someone standing or crouching at the edge of the trail, hooded and staring and patient, watching the procession of does and chilling the air.  Her presence is familiar and unmistakable to me.

 

I take Jo to the edge of the path and sit, and breathe, and I offer Hel music and grief and awareness and love.  On closer inspection what once appeared humanoid is most often a tree, unnaturally darker than its surroundings, twisted and broken, but alive and profound all the same.  I leave a small handful of wildflowers leaning against the roots, tip out some of my water onto the ground, tell Hel aloud that I love Her.  The woods are quiet.

 

On the way back, I think of Hel and Her hall and the people that I’ve lost – that the world has lost, through circumstance and through malice, and I thank Hel again and again for giving those souls a place of rest, for letting me shoulder some of the work through memorials or psychopomp-ery or prayer.  I am so grateful to see what I see, and at the end of the trail I find a single crow’s feather.  It sits on my altar now where a rabbit skull used to be before a freak gust of wind threw it from the windowsill and shattered it.  We all let go of the physical sooner or later.

 

Speaking of high winds, hailstorms are terrifying.  And exhilarating.  There’s so much wildness in the weather here sometimes that it leaves me in awe while golf ball sized hailstones pelt the windows, rattle the door frames, and bounce dramatically off of cars in the lot below.  One of our neighbors was momentarily caught outside having a smoke when the storm started and looked so utterly disgusted by the weather that despite feeling badly for them I had to laugh.  I’m not used to weather like this.  I come from North Alabama, the heart of Dixie Alley, and severe weather there means fear and anticipation and bracing yourself for the inevitable loss of life and property.  (My mother is terrified of even minor power outages to this day as a result of the 2011 tornado outbreak and its aftereffects.)

 

People can die in hailstorms too, of course, and suffer property damages.  We all know this.  But something about the rolling thunder and the wind and the sudden shift in temperature strikes me as almost gleeful, at least when there’s no immediate threat to the people around me.  This kind of wild energy and the first walk around my home after a hailstorm makes me think of Hel, too – seeing the trampled plants and wondering what happened to the smaller animals that are resident to the fields and forests of my home.  There were no significant losses as a result of the hailstorms in Elk Valley the last few weeks, that I know of.  Everybody went home safely.

 

What makes you think of Hel lately?  Does She stand in your mind as more of a figure of loss or care?  What do you do to honor Her?