I wrote this on September 6th and never published it because I wanted to write more about actually gardening as opposed to just my weird gardening nightmares. I hopefully will still do that, but in the meanwhile, I’d like this not to live in my Drafts folder anymore. So here it is!
I keep having anxiety dreams about my garden. I fall asleep and my brain tells me a slug has eaten all my kale and I stand in the yard watching the green leaves literally disappear in an extremely unrealistic way, like in a video game, where a bad guy might take big chomping bites out of a digitized mushroom until it is all gone and you lose 20 points for failing to stop him.
I fall asleep another night and I dream I’ve lost my wagon. I don’t actually own a wagon but in my dream it is yellow and I was using it to bring tomato starts to a friend in a giant parade but everyone had a yellow wagon in the parade and I stop to chat to a toddler and suddenly my wagon is gone, along with all my tomatoes.
A few nights later I fall asleep and weave a story about the woman who owns this house taking control of the yard, I imagine I look out my bedroom window one day and my tall thick tomato vines have vanished. In their place is a box of store-bought eggplant, summer squash, corn. My housemate comes into my bedroom angrily demanding where his tomato jam is, the tomato jam I promised to make him as a thank you for watering the garden all summer as I skipped town time and time again to go adventuring. I have no jam for him and have to explain the tomatoes are gone so I won’t be able to make any after all.
I wake up after each dream (nightmare?) and peer out my window gingerly, knowing my plants will still be just where I left them the night before, but sort of wondering what exactly I would do if they weren’t.
They’re always still there.
I didn’t really categorize these specific dreams as “anxiety dreams” until Alley called them that. I was telling her all about one (the first one, the one where the slugs are causing my kale to mysteriously disappear, root systems and all) and she was like, “Oh babe, that sounds like an anxiety dream if I’ve ever heard one!” And I was like, “Oh, huh, yeah I guess that’s true.” And then I just kept having them, and now I’m sort of like, “Okay brain, what’s the deal, are we just feeling anxious and deciding to project those feelings onto my poor innocent plants, or are you like specifically anxious about the garden – in which case, calm down! – or are these garden dreams a deliberate and elaborate metaphor for all the other things growing in my life that you are anxious about?” I suppose the bright side is that my old anxiety dreams (that I also never labeled as such but I suppose were exactly that) used to all center around rape and murder, so if I’m just worrying about wagons and tomatoes perhaps that is an improvement.
Anyhow, I’ve been wanting to write about gardening all summer, so maybe these dreams are just prompting me to get a move on with that, before the first frost comes and gardening becomes an abstract to dream about in general rather than an action I can do every day. Anytime I’ve typed anything about my garden over the past few months it’s felt sort of ridiculous, like I am a small child proud of myself for something extremely mundane. I know my Instagram posts about my garden are filled with sappy excitement and self-congratulatory hashtags that probably cause most of my followers to roll their eyes. Or maybe I’m projecting, maybe I just feel self-conscious about being so unabashedly earnestly thrilled about this very simple act of putting a seed in the ground and watching it grow into food that I can eat.
Why am I still self-conscious about finding joy in simple acts? I’ve been living in Oregon for just over two years now, but listen, I’m still an East Coaster at heart. My adult self was raised in New York City on Gawker Media Brand Snark (RIP), and even though we’ve said goodbye to Gawker as we all knew it, that jaded bitchy tone has made its mark on many a millennial. Me included, I guess, even as I try to grow a new version of myself.