The world had ended, even though she has done what was requested of her: stayed home, washed hands, worn a mask. The virus became a pandemic, and the Sickness spread.
It spread because that’s what contagions do, but also because some were not allowed to stay home, deemed “essential” for their labor if not their lives. Others, though, were too much in denial to see that their actions could make a difference. Change was hard, and resentment for some felt easier, even as it was misdirected. On the street neighbors hollered at those wearing masks, “What, are you scared?” They taunted when, of course, the mask wearer was scared; all were, including the shouters themselves. Too many, directed toward resentment by those that claim leadership or directing themselves, walked down an unproductive path.
Her path leads to an overlooked square of ground. She clears away the leaves from last season, pushes aside the decorative mulch, and tills the hardened dirt beneath. A garden is a small thing, but it’s a routine she can follow, not to mention that self-sustaining food was advised for protection against broken supply chains and workers putting themselves at risk. There is much that she doesn’t know, but this she can do. The garden is something to tend.
She enjoys the rich earth between her fingers as she pushes seeds into the soil. Each day she waters and talks to the ground as she searches for growth. Soon what she has sown bursts forth into seedlings, one with the outside of the seed still attached to its new leaves—like a chick with its head stuck in the shell. She frees the one trapped plant from its casing with careful fingertips so as not to damage the newly forming leaves. Once released, the cotyledon—a word she has learned for those first embryonic leaves—relax into two small, perfect flourishes of green. As the weeks pass, she watches them take on their true leaves, expanding several feet in every direction. The plants thrive in previously barren earth.
This morning, she gently cups a single zucchini blossom—orange and delicate, like a butterfly impossibly seated in her hand. Its petals open each morning, welcoming ants and bees. As the heat wears on, it will close to save its pollen for tomorrow.
Pollinated zucchini are already emerging, slender fingers of green. Nature thrives with all its elements working to bring this precious vegetable into the world.
Together they can all bear fruit. She knows it. She has seen it.
She continues to cultivate the garden, and for the moment, this sustains her.