• One Minnesota Writer

Notes from the Longest Days of the Year

I’m writing this on a sultry Tuesday afternoon, wind blowing the cowbell chime hanging in my back yard. Every single day for the past few months it has crossed my mind that I’m lucky. Inexplicably damn lucky. Today is no exception.

Right this minute, I can sit here writing on my laptop, access to wi-fi at my house, surrounded by trees and flowers. There’s a pot with a patio tomato in it on our deck, another with a jalapeño pepper, another with nasturtiums whose leaves fascinate me. My dog hangs out beside my feet. My partner Mick has the option of working from home. Neither of us have to leave to go to a job that exposes us to COVID-19 in spite of our own safety measures. We aren’t facing eviction or brutality at the hands of our own police force. We have enough food in the fridge, cars that work.

And I cannot help thinking, right along with a feeling that our luck is undeserved, that it could all disappear in a wisp of smoke. Or a momentary shift of prevailing winds.

I began the day by watering our garden - quenching the hot-weather thirst of tiny impatiens, begonias, petunias, dianthus. The water gave the transplanted nannyberries, a gift from my friend Marie, a fighting chance in their new home. Once all the plants’ thirst was slaked in preparation for a 90-degree day, I returned to one section of the garden to pull weeds. In the garden nearest our front door, where there are multiple new seedlings struggling to grow, I pulled weed after weed after weed. They, too, were trying to grow, crowding the plants whose flowers will become midsummer’s palette of joy. Viola seedlings have erupted all over; those I left alone. I love seeing their purple faces pop up around the flower bed. Some kind of clover grows all over this particular bed; I filled half a garden bucket with its remains.

In the midst of all this weeding, I found a little ruffly-leafed plant that I didn’t recognize. I have no idea if it’s invasive. It’s nothing I planted on purpose, but I left it there anyway, enchanted by its sweet fingernail-sized leaves, its low-growth habit.

I’m going to give this stranger a chance.

Sometimes it’s so hard to get people to give new ideas a chance, break old habits. On Saturday, my partner Mick and I went to the St. Paul Farmers Market around 8 a.m. We love the market and really want to support the farmers there through this pandemic. We masked up, arrived at the designated entrance, washed our hands and listened to the woman at the hand washing station explain to us about the one-way aisles designed to assist with social distancing. Once inside, we noticed about 50% of the customers ignored the one-way directions. We felt frustrated, disappointed, a bit upset. Those feelings were expanded when we got to the designated exit, came face-to-face with people coming in that way because they didn’t want to bother with walking around to the entrance. Safety was not on their minds. Convenience was.

Why is it so hard for so many to think beyond their own desires in the moment?

When I got home, I sent a message to the St. Paul Farmers Market through their website contact form and told them what we’d observed. They’ve acknowledged receipt of my message.

The message the Minneapolis Police Department keeps getting is that they’re brutal. They need to stop killing black men. They need to listen to the community.

When the community is pushed to its breaking point and people clamor for replacing the police department with a community-based public safety system, some in the department hear that message. Some in the public understand, but it doesn’t stop a whole new argument from emerging, one that focuses on fear of what that kind of change means. A perception of looming chaos, of lawlessness, is thrust into the conversation. There’s no realization of the irony that a brutal police department encourages lawlessness. People too often on the receiving end of brutality have nothing to lose.

Hard conversations too often get derailed before the details get figured out, explained. That, coupled with deliberate misinformation, makes me fear that nothing will be sorted out anytime soon without a lot more violence and pain.

But it will be sorted out. It has to be. We cannot continue an often lethal method of law and order and expect that it won’t backfire.

People just want to live their lives in safety.

Rabbits must feel safe in our yard. They keep helping themselves to our garden buffet. This morning, I found a pink petunia plant almost gone except for one little sprig that didn’t get eaten. Disappointed as I was - I love petunias and these pink ones are glorious - I could see the rabbits didn’t kill the plant. They may still eat it into nonexistence, but this one little sprig gives me hope. It stood proud and bright green beneath the water falling from the garden hose.

I’m going to nurture that little sprig as best I can. After all, the rabbits have plenty to eat in this yard. And if they eat this petunia down to the dirt, maybe there’s something else that can live there, some other plant that will take to this soil and bloom.

#minnesotasummer #urbangardener #summersolstice #nurturehope


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