I have a blood cancer, multiple myeloma. It’s not an accident. It’s not bad luck. It’s just life. I adapt to the complications. My skin mottles. Smears of color come and go and return. I admire the abstract tattoos on my hands and forearms. Numbed by drugs and disease and age, my brain and body wander. I am sometimes awkward on my feet. I prefer solitude. My thoughts disdain order. I retreat to the garden for balance, where I find my cat, Spanky, curled in the greenery. And, like my cat, I am curiously happy.
Surviving cancer, surviving Covid, its variants, and surviving the Heat Dome, hell, surviving survivor’s guilt … it’s a lot of work being a human being. To relax, my wife and I putter in the garden. Flowers for me and vegetables for her.
Morning and evening, I observe a plot of wildflowers. It hums with the activity of bees reaping gold for their hive. Each year I grow a mix of Northwest varieties from seed. This season’s bounty is muted. The egregious heat we experienced in June was as dangerous a weather phenomenon as any winter storm I’ve known. Four days of temperatures above 110 degrees stifled growth. Only now, six weeks later, are the varieties beginning to rebound. California Poppy, Sweet William, Cosmos, and Shasta Daisies brighten the yard. They attract bugs for this brief but never ending cycle of ecological symbiosis.
In late winter, our son constructed raised beds for the vegetables and a planter deck for potted flowers. We have already harvested lettuces, beans, an eggplant and several tomatoes. The flowers, however, are well into their second iteration as I adapt the idea to the catastrophe of hot weather.
My cat Spanky accompanies me on the daily rounds to these “new” friends. He ambles on the periphery of my nurturing visits. I finger test the soil in the multi-colored pots. Moisture? Yes, time to water. I pinch wilted flowers and assess the spacing. The marigolds disappointed me. Too small and perhaps crowded among the thriving petunias. I make mental notes to replace them with pansies to flush out more color.
Frankly, the weather overwhelmed me. I screwed up and some pots died completely. I grieved over my mistakes. I re-planted a few but intend to replenish others in August, when the nights are longer and cooler. I tug at weeds and shake dirt from their roots. I retrieve the watering can and begin wetting down the plants. Spanky, the indifferent gardener, squints inscrutably. He tires of my fussing and slips away among the tall wildflowers for a nap.
A song: I Recall You When I Sing