The Smell of (Some) Success

Today when I got in my car with Myra-Jean the air was redolent with the smell of soil. From the bags I — yes — still hadn’t unpacked from my trunk. It’s a pleasant smell, extremely so, and suddenly I had a feeling of deep satisfaction — of being, if not one with the land, then at least not completely alienated from it. “Aaaaah,” I said. “Smell the earth, daughter. Smell the LOAM!!”

I turned. Myra Jean sat slumped in her car seat, eyes out the window, finger deep in her nose. Clearly now was not a smelling time.

Ah, well. Eventually perhaps she will catch the fever. God knows it took me long enough. But catch it I have. I think. As of yesterday. Around four. That, you see, was the moment we planted out first little plants in the finally-cleared lower left terrace. Let me tell you, it felt good. Sooooo good!

At first. Then it felt uncertain. Then totally overwhelming. Then, well, despair. And yet…I’m hooked! Sounds like any new relationship, right?

The “good” came from seeing those three little plants (a small lavender bush from the Atwater Farmers Market, a tray of ice flowers from the San Bernadino Nursery and a tiny, weeny Agave from the same) snuggled into the ground, covered in soil with a smattering of gypsum and organic compost mixed in, looking ready to grow and flourish (or die and wither, if history repeats itself. But let’s be positive).

Lavender and, on the right, ice flowers (I think?)

Agave something or rather.

The “uncertain” came from an almost immediate onslaught of questions: did I put them in the right place? What will I put everywhere else? Is my design any good? Do I even have a design? Are the berms high enough? What is a berm? I have gypsum under my nails. So does Myra-Jean. She is picking her nose and eating it again. Is gypsum poisonous?

With that macabre thought, the “overwhelming” begins. How am I going to rescusciate my daughter if gypsum is toxic? And even if it’s not…I need to take a CPR class. I should be more prepared. How will I fill this terrace? How will I afford the number of plants needed to make this a proper garden? How will we afford anything in this house, for that matter? What if the air conditioning duct leaks again, next time it rains? What the hell is that, anyway? Why can’t we have a normal roof leak, like everyone else? And what are those cracks on the exterior of the house? What if it’s sinking? What if it collapses onto itself while we’re sleeping? Or what if it burns? Our windows are old. We don’t have proper egress. How will we get out? How will the dog get out? Will we fall into the Tree of Pain? Does our fire alarm work? Does our carbon monoxide detector work? How do we test it? What leaks carbon monoxide , anyway?

And so it goes. I need hardly explain how I arrive at “despair.” That night, I lay in bed, unable to sleep. “You will never get anything done,” my head intones. “You suck at nearly everything.” (That “nearly,” mind you, was purchased with ten years in therapy) “I’ll bet those other Mt. Washington bloggers don’t have sinking houses with no egress. I’ll bet they wouldn’t put their lavender plants in the totally wrong place. They know how to do CPR. Their kids have gardening gloves. You are a loserrrrrrr…a slouchhhhhhh…a…

ZZzzzzzzzz.

OK, it’s not counting sheep, but at least it gets the job done.

And yet. This morning I can’t wait to get out there again. Honey, smell that LOAM!!

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