I figured out the meaning of life at age 26. That was when I had a backyard all to myself-sort of. I shared it with the eight losers, I mean anarcho punks I lived with in the duplex that towered over it. They didn't work and threw a dumpstered rotisserie chicken in my compost pile, but I digress.
I discovered the meaning of life one evening when, after walking home from work on a chilly central Illinois November evening, I picked up a rake and raked my first pile of leaves ever-and I couldn't believe the immediate peace that fell over me as I pulled the many metal fingers across the ground, collecting those dried brown crispy critters. I didn't have any music on, no one was around to be impressed-it was just me, the dim light of the evening, and the sound of raking and seeing the areas around the yard look clean and neat from my work.
It was a relatively large yard that I poured my heart into. I never really had a lot of backyards growing up-we mostly lived in apartments or in places that didn't have much in terms of play areas behind the house. One year, my mom and step dad decided having a satellite was far more important than having a pool (much to my dismay as I wasn't even allowed to enjoy the perks of satellite tv like Disney or MTV unless I was sick or it was Live Aid). So when I moved in and the landlord who was cool AF from San Francisco allowed me to have a compost (she even had a little fence built for it) and a garden to plant anything I wanted, I immediately began planning and building my dream garden.
My boyfriend at the time was as cute and sturdy as a hobbit, complete with big hairy feet and a hippy heart. He tilled the garden area I planned for the vegetables. Being in the local punk anarchist scene meant I had tons of DIY zines at my disposal to research what to grow and plant that could be considered natural bug repellants like marigolds. I went to tree sales and bought a dogwood tree. I ordered bleeding hearts from a flower catalogue. I dug my shovel in the compost and turned it so that the raw veggies and eggshells could decompose properly.
I sat on my balcony overlooking my land like a medieval lord with glee and excitement.
I started the seeds inside in January. Lettuce, tomato, peppers and every herb I could get my hands on. My babies grew abundantly and by the time I could plant them in the spring, they were happy little plants that fit perfectly into the rich midwestern ground ready to be loved and watered.
Then I got evicted because our cool AF landlord found out about our cats. Only my boyfriend and I were evicted. I was so devastated; I had to go on anti-depressants (but that's another story).
My really good friends moved in. I couldn't bear to visit for months.
When I finally came to visit for like 5 minutes, I saw the fruits of my hard work-the garden was so lush-I couldn't believe my eyes. I almost cried at how full and lush the tomato plants were. Probably three feet tall! I left Illinois for a three-month road trip to deal with my broken heart...and being faced with figuring out how to navigate the world without a garden.
I am now 43 and have, to this day, never had a garden since.