The pandemic has meant that I, like millions of others, have spent more time at home. It’s meant spending more time doing yard work and gardening. That’s something that was already becoming more of an interest before all this craziness started.

Many years ago, a girlfriend brought me a Betta fish and tank. She said it was so that I could learn, by caring for a living environment, that I can’t control everything (…clearly I had some issues in that area at the time!). Gardening is like that. It’s about nurturing and cultivating things so that, yes, they do kinda what you want. But also about being accepting that cultivation is a long way from control.

Last year, a lot of what I planted withered and died in the brutal heat of the Texas summer. All dead, or so I thought. What was fascinating this spring was seeing the front yard’s bare beds suddenly bursting with salvia. Or the numerous baby Mexican feather grass plants that had multipled from their parent. And, perhaps most exciting, the grape vine that looked like two inches of dead plant in February, spreading up the wall of the house by midsummer.

Some of the most rewarding work this year has been around the vegetable patch. A lot of the rest of the garden is a bit ad-hoc. Pretty in places, but no, huge, unified effort at specific changes (though I’ve thrown up some nice scrap wood raised beds). The vegetable patch and the herb garden on the deck have been more considered efforts.

I’m not producing masses. I get a lot of plant for very few vegetables! But it was nice having squash, or cucumber, or tomato, grown from seed. It’s a real sense of achievement. I prune, I feed, I water, and it’s all very relaxing. And I’ve learned patience, because growing things takes time. Perhaps more importantly, I’ve learned equaniminity, because things go wrong. My basil is scrawny, the lettuce died, a deer ate our fig sapling! All natural results of working with plants.

I’ve been fascinated to see how things survived the hottest part of the Texas summer. It’s been a challenge to keep everything drying out or scorching in the sun. But we’ve got olive saplings, avocados growing from seed, and homemade compost bins returning our organic waste to the ground. Growing things, both successfully and unsuccessfully, is a physically and mentally rewarding way to spend time.