A March Walk

A March Walk March 8, 2023


a daffodil
image via pixabay

The anxiety hasn’t been good this week.

In fact it’s been terrible. It hasn’t let up since my attempt at going to Mass on Sunday. That was a mistake. It’s too soon. I was down for the count on Monday. Tuesday  I was still having surges of anxiety every several hours. Tuesday into Wednesday night, I couldn’t sleep.

I woke up unusually early Wednesday morning, still exhausted but unable to rest. I ate breakfast but I didn’t feel full. I had my coffee but it didn’t help. Even if our car had been drivable, I’d have been too exhausted to drive it safely.

Still, I was already awake, so I went for a walk in the sun.

It was cold again. We had such a warm February and start to March that it felt like April, but today was a real March day. Today was a day of which Dickens said “one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold; when it is summer in the light and winter in the shade.” The daffodils were already out. The crocuses were getting past their peek. Harbinger-of-Spring dotted the unmowed lawns.

My anxiety and I started planning the community garden.

I’ve already chosen the corner of the garden for the sunflower room. There’s a soft mulchy circle, where I think there used to be a tree. The shape of the room is already open for me. I’m going to plant the most obnoxiously beautiful, impenetrable hedge of red and orange sunflowers, and then I’m going to hide in there and spy on people as they walk by.

In the raised garden bed, I’m growing heirloom tomatoes. I’m going to grow Hillbilly tomatoes, my favorite variety. Don’t let the name fool you– Hillbilles are the most posh, refined tomatoes. A hillbilly is a giant fruit about the shape of a jelly doughnut, streaked with orange and red. The juice is scandalously plentiful. The flavor is about like a pineapple. You would never sully a Hillbilly tomato by stewing it with basil and garlic. The proper way to eat a Hillbilly tomato is raw, in a salad or straight from the garden as if it’s an apple. The trade-off for growing such a perfect treat is that Hillbillies take even longer than ordinary tomatoes to ripen. Last year I grew two Hillbilly plants and I think I only got seven or eight fruit. This year I’m going to do it right. This year I’ll buy the plants and keep them safe from frost well ahead of time. I’ll put them in the ground when they’re very well established. I’ll ruthlessly trim the suckers so the plants put all their energy to fruit. By July I’ll be munching Hillbilly tomatoes as I hide in my sunflower fort.

As I thought these happy thoughts, anxiety munched on my stomach.

I rounded the bend to where the expensive houses are, the place where I saw the first hawk. The trees are budding already after the warm February. Birds are singing in their branches. The two birds of prey I’ve been watching all over LaBelle were nowhere to be seen. I love birds. Maybe I’ll put bird feeders all over the ugly chain link fences. Maybe I’ll plant some gigantic Hopi Black Dye and Mammoth Grey Stripe sunflowers along the fence, to attract the birds away from the plants. Birds and a garden– that’s all anybody needs to be happy. As long as the hawks don’t bother us too much.

Anxiety clawed at my guts like the talons of that hawk.

I thought about the Three Sisters patch. I love growing Three Sisters. I’m going to plant gem glass corn. I’m going to grow kuri squash running across the soil and purple-streaked rattlesnake pole beans up the stalks. Last year I planted ordinary acorn squash, and I waited too late. There was only one tiny fruit, hanging off the side of the raised bed, getting muddled up with the tomatoes. This year I’ll get it right. Corn, beans, and winter squash, just like the Indigenous farmers have been growing for centuries. Plenty to share with neighbors. Everyone is happier when there are plants nearby.

I wasn’t exactly happy.

The strangest thing about anxiety is when you know you’re safe and ought to be happy. On one level, you are happy. Happy things are happening, and you are happy in them. But you remain terrified somewhere else, inside. The skin of the mind is bright and happy, but the juice inside is terrified. The outside of the fortress is glorious sunflowers, but inside is a spy. The birds are singing of life and growth, but the hawk is lurking somewhere just out of sight. Both feelings are real. Both feelings are you.

I rounded the bend for home, worrying.

It’s such a beautiful day to worry.

I think there will be many more beautiful days ahead, in spite of my worry.

The anxiety always goes away, after awhile.

And when it’s over I’ll be here, happy.


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