Nathan and I work in Bartlesville on Thursdays.
By the time we got home late tonight, there was already freezing rain falling.
This was a garden emergency.
Our first vegetables are about two inches tall, and that is too tender to be out in the sleet and hail and freezing temperatures.
It is a tricky thing, this kind of protect-the-vegetables crisis.
If it were only cold, I could cover them all with towels and sheets just to protect them from frost and freezing.
But because it has already been raining, and still is raining, there was no way to dry the plants and sheets and towels would get too heavy for the little shoots.
Ideally, if we had been home this afternoon, I would have covered them with sheets and towels, and then covered them with plastic over that before the rains came. Covering directly with plastic can sometimes hurt the leaves or little plants of some garden creatures.
But this was in the middle of the storm, in the middle of the rain, in the middle of already-freezing cold temperatures, in the middle of the night.
Covering them with trash bags was about the very best I could do at this point.
We did at least have some fabric ribbed ones, which is better than just straight plastic.
I hope the bags will stay, and I hope they do not get too heavy.
I hope my plants will be okay.
When we first got home, all I told Nathan was that I was going to check on the garden.
He was helpful to let the dogs out, and then went back to his office to work.
I came in some time after that, shaking with cold, and announcing that I could no longer feel my fingers.
We warmed them up in cold water, then lukewarm water, then warm water, ever so slowly.
Then I found gloves, because I wasn’t done yet.
Excepting that’s when my husband knew this was one of those moments when I was struggling with differentiating between the life of my garden and my own mortality. He was also wise enough not to ask me to choose between the garden and our unborn child, knowing that I perceived the garden as what will keep that very child alive, healthy, and strong. He knew it was my pioneer woman moment, and that the garden had to be saved. Instead of getting on to me, trying to make me reasonable, or in any way correcting me, he simply began to help without even being asked.
He walked in the freezing cold rain to pick up bricks from the fence line, and carried them to the garden. He gently told me to “stay on the porch where you can see the spots I miss”, while he took over my work in the garden. He stood in the cold wet night and helped without complaint.
He signed with frozen hands and shouted over the rain a I coached him to identify the baby plants in the dark.
He stepped with his fancy-pants favorite shoes into the wet grass, through the mud to find bricks, and over the slippery paving stones of the garden path.
He laid out bags as gently as one would cover a child, softly and completely. I watched him slide extra leaves under the bags by hand, shift the bags to be sure each tiny plant was tucked in, and place bricks and barbell weights between rows to hold it all in place against the wind.
It was the tucking in of little leaves that made me begin to cry, until I was standing there weeping in the rain.
This is my garden, you see? It’s the place that I have worked and cried and prayed and laughed. It’s the place that fed me when I was on my own, the place that grew favorites for my mother, the place where Jessica learned how things grow. It’s the place I grew nutrients to fight cancer, grieved the loss of my father, and buried the grief of my mother. It’s the place where my skull healed after my surgeries, the place where my digital ears first heard birds, the place where I first heard trees clap their hands, the place where I first heard the songs of frogs and bees and spiders and snakes. It’s the place where I ponder, praise, and plead. It’s the place that feeds me in the winter, and warms my feet in summer. It’s the place I eat breakfast with the sunrise, and the place I play with fire in the night. It’s the place I work with every drop of sweat I have, so that I can rest with just a moment’s glance through a window. It’s the place I meet with my grandmothers to learn the secrets of creation, and the place where I meet my parents as we preach ancient things. It’s the place where I first talked to Nathan, the place where I laid staring at the stars while I thought of him, the place where I watched the clouds as I prayed about him, the place where I realized I loved him. It’s my temple space, where I come to repent and weed, to ponder and water, to heal and grow.
Nathan knows this in his spirit because he knows my soul.
When we got engaged, and I introduced him to my garden with lines from Emily Dickinson and samples to delight him, I promised I would never make him help me weed it. I knew dirt was not his thing like it was mine, and I knew that gardening is good for me. It keeps me honest, gives me something to share with others, and shows me patterns of life and strength and fruition.
My garden is the place where dreams take root and bear fruit.
When I promised him he would never have to weed my garden, explaining that it’s easy for me to do myself because I have one raised bed for each day of the week, I know he was relieved.
I never warned him, though, about nights like this, when gardening becomes an extreme sport.
He didn’t complain, though.
He just took care of it, and got it done.
He took care of me.
He took care of our little child in my womb, this ultimate garden we hope to see bloom someday.
He knows that my love for the garden isn’t really about the garden.
I know that his taking care of my garden wasn’t really about the garden, either.
He was taking care of me, and our baby.
Because he loves us. A lot. Even in the freezing cold storm. And the rain. And the mud.
Even in the middle of the night, standing on the patio, shaking with cold and watching me cry uncontrollably, he still loves me. He still loves us.
He knows there are garden tears that are really seeds from Orphantown. He knows there are tears of lost children, tears of cautious excitement, tears of gratitude. He knows there are tears from years and years and years, and that these are garden tears the feed the soil and make rainbows in the sun.
But he doesn’t say anything about the tears.
He just holds me until they are done, and kisses where they were.
Then he says, quietly, not to be afraid.
He says I am not alone anymore.
He says he is here, we are together forever, and everything is going to be okay.
And I know I have never loved anyone so much as I do in this moment.
And I know I have never been loved so well.
Even if we pretend it’s about the silly garden and the rain.