Gardening in a Pandemic
Cassie Condrey
December 10, 2020

I began before the pandemic but the urge was more about the idea of wanting to be a gardener than an actual need for food grown by my self.

I live in the country and moved back here in part because I wanted to do things like garden and ride my horse. Supposedly they were the things that fulfilled me. In real life, feet on the ground life, my horse at some point began to not like me and then make me nervous and the garden requires attention all the time.

For many months, we fared well in the pandemic. My husband’s weekly commute to Houston ended. We were at home. Scared and sanitizing mail, yes. But we have one child we weren’t yet having to home school and suddenly we had what felt like a real marriage in life. We spent seven nights a week together in the same bed. I enjoyed being here with my daughter. Compared to the destruction and desperation we witnessed happening around the world, we had no choice but to be grateful.

So I continued my garden. The thing about gardening, as I mentioned, is that it requires attention, and the other thing is that it can grow without it. Looking back, I see that once I began to be lazy, or when it began to feel pointless, not sure which came first, I assumed the garden would die. But it did not just die.

A man who drinks a lot and who was born with less material means than me helps to mow my yard and one day a couple of weeks ago he asked if he could have some of my peppers. His mom likes to use them to make greens. I couldn’t believe there were still peppers there. What did he think of me? My overgrown garden. Fucking food there, actual real food grown by me, left unpicked. Why? Because it still didn’t feel real enough? 

Here’s real. I’ve been home sick for a week with Strep throat. My grandmother died of the virus just three weeks ago. My husband and I are on different planets, as happens in marriage when circumstances allow you to lose perspective, and our two year old is me, but liberated, meaning she is giving us hell. The sun was shining today, geese honking and pelicans flying overhead. The colors are particularly amazing right now. The Japanese Maple and the White Oak and the Parsley Hawthorne. Stunning visual display of the fact that seasons do indeed change. Real enough? I went out to the garden, to assess. It is December now and we’ve had many frosts and there are still tomatoes and eggplants and some peppers. Green tomatoes on the vine– the idea is to fry them. Some cayennes ripe, many of them, enough to make hot pepper flakes and give to some neighbors and friends. The idea is there to do it.

I might have left them. The pepper plant still had blooms. But I pulled them up. The eggplant required a lot of me, my foot on the raised bed as leverage while I strained. I’m sparing them; it has only gotten colder. Who knows what would have come next? Nothing pretty. And I think of my grandmother. Ninety years old. Very, very gone. A virus, a pandemic, she’s dead. Who knows what would have come next? Perhaps nothing pretty. Perhaps she was spared.

What else is there to think but that? If I am to live with it, continue to feel grateful, plant a garden this spring, as a vaccine does its work and spares, hopefully, the rest of us, what else is there to think but that she was spared something worse? That there is, indeed, some kind of point?