Sow There! Recharging for the next steps Nov. 30, 2018

Yellow, orange and red leaves had not fallen from trees along The Esplanade earlier this week. (Heather Hacking — Contributed)
November 30, 2018 at 4:30 am

Blue sky and sunlight on fall leaves provided an exaggerated glimmer to my tired eyes. These simple images seemed like holiday lights after being cloistered in my house. I blame the hazardous air for my lack of exercise over the past two weeks. I blame second-hand grief and shock for my mass consumption of ice cream.

I joke often about the medicinal qualities of chocolate. This month I wish I could pay for chocolate with my health savings account.

Last weekend my family had a belated Thanksgiving dinner. I showed up with two boxes of those ice cream cones that are covered in chocolate, filled with chocolate and sprinkled with bits of toffee. Only two of those gooey goodies remain in my mother’s freezer.

After dinner, a few of us noticed that we could see the sky.

A walk! We could take a walk! Now I understand the excitement of the family dog when it hears the rattle of the leash.

My mother’s ordinary neighborhood suddenly seemed glorious as our group walked under the recently-elusive blue sky.

When I returned home to Chico, the gunky cloud had also lifted from over my house. I had not even thought to check my yard during the blaze and smoke. I was too busy checking fire maps and watching harrowing videos of escape from our nearby foothills.

The grass outside my house was still damp from the sky-cleansing rain, and I scattered grass seed over bald spots in the yard.

Then I realized I had missed the window for planting spinach. My students popped seeds in the ground before the Thanksgiving break, but I never got around to doing the same at my own house.

The tomato plants should have been removed a while ago. Yet, the last time I checked that thick tangle of vines, there were red and almost-red tomatoes to harvest. A lot has happened since the last time I checked.

I’m considering not planting spinach this year, but then I would have one less thing to write about.

Letting kale rest

Just for fun, I’ve decided to let the kale plants remain. These are planted near the cyclone fence. Harlequin bugs ravaged those plants all through the summer, which was fine by me because this kept the bugs away from the tomatoes. I lopped off the terrible-looking tops, and now I’m curious whether the plants will revitalize. My research shows that kale can be considered a perennial in mild climates.

The Vinca rosea (considered an annual in these parts), is going strong after six seasons. Maybe the partially-butchered kale will also survive the cold months.

Bits of normal

We’re in the season of holiday rituals, and I have my own garden rituals – like planting kale and spinach in the fall.

Doing normal things also helps me forget that nothing around here will be normal again – not for a long time.

Similar to most folks I know, I’m trying to shake this overall feeling of shock and depression – visualizing myself as a beautifully shaggy dog after a jump in a lake. Gardening has long been my way to do something with my hands and let my mind rest. Gardening is also an act of hope, because we can trust that something beautiful will grow.

Yet, you can’t hide away the days in your back yard.

I went to the south side of town to do some shopping. On the way, I drove past a triangle of grass near 12th and Mulberry streets, where about a dozen tents have been pitched.

At the store, I maneuvered my oversized-cart around small groups of people, some telling the story of the loss of their home or the details of their current living situation.

I felt my funk settling in. All those potentially-thoughtful holiday gifts were stacked on tall, metal racks and I sensed a suppressed sob well up inside me. I know myself. If I need a long cry, it needs to be somewhere other than the aisles of a big-box store.

Yellow, orange and red leaves had not fallen from trees along The Esplanade earlier this week. (Heather Hacking — Contributed)

As I drove home, I was grateful to see that the trees along The Esplanade had waited to shed their leaves. The leaves could have shaken to the ground on one of those days when we were hiding behind N95 masks.

Thank you leaves. We needed you.

Back to school

Recently our school community gathered for a meeting about how best to greet children when they return to school. Some of our children have gone through trauma, lost their homes or lost a familiar home of a close relative. Even those of us who are not so close to the ashes are in distress, a shadow over our hearts that will be long remembered.

I knew becoming a teacher was a great responsibility. As I sat in the auditorium filled with strong, compassionate teachers, I was glad I will have my amazing coworkers by my side as we navigate the next steps together.

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