It was as if the ceiling cracked suddenly, and the light danced all around us, defying all fear or obligation.
Author: Siena Facciolo
the first year
The first year that I cut down all the dead kudzu, putting a tarp down to stop the new growth.
The first year that all of our plants are on shelves.
The first year that we only have one plaid couch.
The first year that we have a real living room that I can read in.
The first year that I reread Peter and the Starcatchers and realized that even that book has dangerous patriarchal and misogynist imagery in it.
The first year that I feel capable of living.
why do we mourn so
Let’s set the scene: it’s Saturday, noon is long gone, the rain makes steady music as it plop plop plops on our living room windows, and we are scraping eggs off our mismatching breakfast plates. My body feels calm, grateful, open.
I open the hardware-store paper bag labeled “Seeds We Already Planted” and dump the contents on the dining room table. It’s time to thin some seedlings. Maybe. I’m not sure, because I really don’t know what I’m doing.
I mean, I kind of do – I have a few years of experience under my belt, but honestly, I’ve never bothered to thin the seedlings after planting the seeds. I always just plant the seeds in little pots, and hope for the best. The green bean seedings get all gangly and start twisting all over each other, the snap peas usually shrivel up after producing one or two peas, and the tomatoes fight it out to see which seedling will make it to the big pot.
BUT THIS YEAR WOULD BE DIFFERENT. This year our veggies would be SO ABUNDANT that we wouldn’t even be able to EAT all the food we grew in our garden. The quality and yield would be the best they’ve ever been! We would be vegetable heroes! We, and every single one of our friends, would never have to buy vegetables again! Etc etc goes my brain (notice how my perfectionism leaks into everything, even this gardening hobby, which is supposed to be nourishing and slow).
So, mug of mint tea in hand, I hunker down at the dining room table to thin what’s ready to be thinned.
First, I grab a small plastic pot, labeled “Zuch.” The zucchini seed packet says to thin the seedlings when they get to be about 3”. Perfect! These were around that size. Elated, I carefully wiggled and shook the flimsy pot back and forth until the seedlings came out in a lumpy, wet mess of dirt and green.
At this point, I was feeling like a really good person. You know when your brain just starts telling you how great you are, when you’re doing really simple things like folding the laundry or sweeping the floor? My ego was whispering all this bullshit into my ear, like, “wow look at you, thinning seedlings, you’re such an upright citizen gardener,” and, “it’s so impressive how consistently you are caring for your plants, you should really get an award for your organizational skills,” and “you are truly earning your place in society right now – usually, you’re really quite a failure, but right now you’re coming in for the win.”
But then came the doom.
As I was expertly shimmying the zucchini seedlings out of their pot, I happened to rotate the pot juuuuust a little bit, and there, written in the same silver Sharpie, in my own handwriting, was the word “cauliflow.”
CAULIFLOW?! THIS WASN’T A ZUCCHINI AT ALL. This was a cauliflower seedling DISGUISED as a zucchini. I HAD BEEN READING LAST YEAR’S LABEL. WHY DID I NOT CROSS OUT LAST YEAR’S LABEL. WHAT AN IDIOT.
Panicking, with the sharp acidity of anxiety welling up in my chest, I scrambled to find the cauliflower seed packet, while the cauliflower seedlings and wet dirt languished in a sad pile on the table.
The cauliflower seed packet gave the following directions: “Thin seedlings when they are 4-6 inches in height, with the final spacing of the plants 2 feet apart.”
4-6 inches. I HAD PULLED THESE POOR LITTLE ONES OUT OF THEIR COMFY NEST AT A MERE 3 INCHES. This would absolutely not do. Thinning the cauliflower prematurely by 1 inch would most definitely be the death of them (yes, writing this now, I see the absurdity of that conclusion). I aborted mission. I quickly stuffed a bunch of dirt back into the plastic pot, and nestled the cauliflower seedlings back in there, all four of them. There. They seemed perky still. No harm done.
The anxiety stayed, though. I was now in a fog. I had that feeling you get when you’re in a room with two people who are in a huge fight, and you’re really trying to ignore the situation because you feel like you’re not supposed to be witnessing this ugly conflict, but you’re forced to just remain in the room, because it would be even weirder if you left at this point. That feeling, plus a feeling of being lightly choked, slowly but surely, by someone who really didn’t want me to exist.
I thinned a few other plants – some tomatoes, a few snap peas. Each seedling got its own little pot. Then, it happened.
In my now-disregulated (and thus significantly more clumsy) state, I brought all the seedlings over to the sink to water them. I placed the smaller pots along the edge of the sink, and let the large pot of snap peas sit in the sink to drain. Once the snap pea pot was ready, I hauled it up – too quickly. My elbow collided squarely with the pot of freshly-tucked-in cauliflower seedlings, and they fell, in slow motion, down into the sink. Face down.
The tiny green stems were crushed. They fell from such a high height and couldn’t withstand the weight of the pot and dirt. They had already been ripped out, left out, and replanted in the last half hour. It was too much. They lay there, splayed on the sink bottom, surrounded by globs of soggy potting soil. I tried to reconstruct the pot, but it was no use. The cauliflower seedlings were bent and disfigured beyond repair. They were not going to make it.
At this point, deep grief seeped into my bones. I picked up the four seedlings, so small, so new, so delicate, and slowly carried them to the compost in the palm of my hand. Placing them in the compost was way harder than my rational brain thought it should be. It felt wrong, like these cauliflower seedlings needed a song, a ritual, a funeral march, and not just an unceremonious trip to the compost bin. They were living just a second ago. They were thriving. They were making it in the world. They were so beautiful. And now I was just leaving them to decompose. And worse, it had been my fault. I had killed them.
I’m not sure why I spent so long describing my thinning shenanigans, and not nearly as long describing the grief. The grief was why I chose to come here and write this blog post. But maybe the grief will be a future post. Here are my brief thoughts on it before I sign off for the night:
- Why do we (and by we, I mean American humans) assign so much weight to death as an ending? Why is death not simply a rebirth or a transfer of energy?
- Why do I feel more tangible grief for these cauliflower seedlings than I do when I see news footage of people dying, or of climate change?
- What is it about young things dying that causes so much suffering in us?
- How did these seedlings dying remind me of my abortion 4 years ago?
- Why does it scare us when we realize we are a part of nature, and therefore have very little control over what lives and what dies?
this is how it’s supposed to be
this is how it’s supposed to be.
life is not meant to be easy
it is not meant to have obvious meaning
or to satisfy some colossal curiosity.
Life was never meant to be simple.
Nature isn’t simple.
Humans aren’t simple.
we are here
even that statement contains
this is how it’s supposed to be.
an evening visit
I wouldn’t have thought to sit outside, with the air as cool as it was. This must be why we keep friends, I thought, so we’re not just doing what we always do, in the way we always do it. I wouldn’t have considered the blankets, and the warmth of the dogs, and the feeling of fresh air filling my lungs. It was my friend’s porch. Across town was my house, where we’ve experienced two drive-by shootings on our street, multiple stolen car chases, and a flat-out murder in our front yard, in which the wounded man stumbled down our driveway, finally collapsing and dying in our backyard by the lilac bush, where my partner found his body minutes later. Often, as I stand on our front porch drinking coffee, men will stop to inquire if I have a boyfriend, and if I work out, as if that is their business, as if I am inviting them to ask, just by existing on my own front porch in the morning. Across town, being outside has felt less relief, more risk. Outside, we’re at the whims of the natural order of things, but with guns. But here, in my friend’s neighborhood, where there hasn’t been a wayward gun shot for years, we took our blankets out to the back porch as the sun set in the evening. The light was a cool blue, sky still bright against the swallows and bats that flew eastward, mysteriously only flying in this one direction. We posited that maybe it was actually only one bat, flying in circles, just to confuse us. But this was simply a silly story made up to amuse ourselves as we sat there. We talked about the crops we were planting (zucchini, fruit trees, tomatoes) and what time of year was best to plant seeds. We talked about the work we were doing on our houses. We talked about how healing from trauma is non-linear, but how processing it seems to alleviate symptoms. We sat in silence a lot of the time. We talked to the dogs. We breathed in the air. Our nervous systems relaxed after each of our separate, scattered and stressful days. We watched the light die and noted how the longer days had somehow brought life back into our bodies. We talked about cycles. I wouldn’t have thought to sit outside, but I wouldn’t want it any other way.
why would anyone get married, part II
Okay, I’m back to continue yesterday’s post. How did I get from wondering why anyone would get married to actually proposing?
I started to realize something. Something that I didn’t really want to admit before. A healthy romantic partnership is many things. It is a daily practice of love. It is a logistical synthesizing of two lives. It is a romantic escape from the realities of the world. It is a business decision. It is a deep respect for another human. It is a trust exercise. It is an intentional path towards vulnerability. It is a promise. It is the dear knowledge that you can rely on someone else. It is lighthearted play. It is a lofty ideal, and it is an earthly adventure.
I started to realize that the meatiness and magnitude of the partnership I was in could no longer be encapsulated by the words “boyfriend,” “girlfriend,” or even “partner.” Our relationship was spilling over of the sides of those words. It demanded more symbolism, more richness, more ritual, to carry the weight of what we were dealing with.
I use the word “weight” here carefully – I do not mean it to describe a heavy burden that I have to carry. Conversely, I’m trying to get at the vibrancy of life that is here in this relationship. The breadth of it. The way it inspires me to be more myself than I’ve ever been.
I never thought I would want more ritual or structure when it came to love. I thought love was this wild force, uninhibited by things like rules, routines, and agreements. It’s strange – the word “marriage” has come to sound completely different to me. It used to sound like white dresses, stuffy ceremonies, stunted growth, and disappointment. Now, it sounds like music, learning, colors, natural evolution, and vitality.
Have I changed? Has my definition of marriage changed? Has my definition of love changed? Has my relationship changed? All of these things are probably true.
Later, I’ll write about all of my anxieties leading up to this, and how it was very difficult to separate those fears from my intuition and Higher Self (some might call this God, some might call this a Higher Power, some might call this the Universe). Whatever you call her, she was there guiding me, and all I needed to do was listen.
why would anyone get married, part I
This is a question I have asked myself many times over the past few years. It truly befuddled me. Why would anyone involve the government in a relationship they were already having, in order to continue to be in the relationship? What was the end goal there? Plus, don’t most marriages end in divorce? Why would you want to be so optimistic?
I already moved in with my partner, bought a house with him, adopted two cats, and shared a bank account. What could we possibly want with a couple of rings and a signed contract? We were already living the life we both wanted. Sometimes, I would be in the midst of falling asleep, curled around my partner, and mumble to him in a sleepy voice, “why would anyone get married?” And he would respond, equally sleepy, “I have no idea. It makes no sense.”
Somehow all that logical kerfuffle culminated in me getting down on one knee and proposing to my partner a month ago. He accepted. I now have a 14K yellow-gold ring on my finger that we ordered from a Chinese jeweler on Etsy, we made the obligatory engagement announcement post on social media, and I am officially engaged to be married.
I’m really tired tonight, my computer is about to die, and I really really really really don’t want to get up off the couch to retrieve the charger, so I will have to leave you on this wildly unsatisfying (and honestly, not very suspenseful) cliff-hanger for now. To be continued. Good night.
just a small question
are we just walking
our bodies around the block
to prove we exist?
when will we just be?
Will we ever stop trying to improve, and just let ourselves be?
nothing is ours at all
there’s something in the way we
catch at words,
gently tucking them away
into the softest parts of ourselves.
it’s not The Truth
(that so quickly dissolves into
chaos, obeying entropy
over our ornery need for absolutes)
it’s not Comfort
(a myth that seems to
out of reach)
it’s more the clinging, quiet
moment in which each of us discovers
how small we are
or, rather, it’s the thousands
of tiny, breathing moments in which
we remember, all of a sudden,
for a fleeting inhalation,
that nothing is ours at all
or, rather, the visceral
stirrings that belong only to us.
we have taken in more than we can bear.
we have held floods.
we have failed to protect ourselves.
we have asked for too much.
this is not a salve, but rather
a snag in the balance,
when the world can’t help
but stop and listen.