we took to the woods

With the first warm days comes the same interior conflict, wherever in the world we happen to be that year. Try to make a garden, or not? I sat for a long time today and looked over the large but neglected back yard of this rental, and saw possibilities, and felt that uncomfortable push-pull, familiar after twenty springs as somebody’s tenant.

The smell of dirt is so tantalizing. Near the stoop, bulbs someone planted long ago delight the girls now. They bloom under hideous and now-gnarled exotic shrubs (“leatherleaf mahonia”?) that were fashionable in the seventies. With hard work and significant expense we’ve managed to grow vegetables and flowers in unlikely places, but there is no legacy. Very soon, it all must be dismantled, given away, and no trace left. For today I am stifling the urge, which seems natural and right, to invest in this patch and build it up, make it beautiful, show it some care.

I think some perennial renters fear commitment and preside passively over the ruin of what were once lovely homes. University towns are full of examples. We diehard nomads can even make this passivity look like virtue, like frugality or even anti-materialism. But it may be a lack of generosity toward the world. To make a beautiful home, or a modest, healthy garden plot, isn’t necessarily self-serving. My domestic urges are strong and are accustomed to being thwarted by renter’s economics. Maybe we can try next year.