October. We have not turned on the heat, and the picnic table sits steadfast in the yard as if it is still September. In this lingering warmth, we are stealing time from winter. We fool ourselves by delaying things at the beginning of a long haul, the way we wouldn’t eat the good snacks or trade drivers in the first few miles of a ten-hour road trip. The next season could be a long haul.
Or maybe I am borrowing back time from summer—time lost in my concussion fog—now that I have energy. I grab the long-handled lops and flail into the pasture to clear around our young poplar trees, leveling goldenrod, burdock, and some thorny black locust sprouts mostly taller than my head. Sometimes I just swing the lops like a sword-wielding samurai to whack down the thinner weeds. Mostly I scissor through, taking ridiculously precise bites with the tool’s small, curved mouth.
It’s really too late for this work, since these weeds have gone to seed. Everything seems to be doing that these days.
Thorny problems have grown up among us while we looked away. We find ourselves not-so-suddenly in a thicket of hateful stuff, which has already formed seeds and begun to scatter them. Painful barbed sticks have resprouted from deeply rooted stumps like the black locust trees. Even as we try to address this current tangle of racism, misogyny, fear, and hatred of others, the seeds of next year’s struggles have been sown.
November. And now it is November 4. We tick off the days until election, wanting relief from uncertainty. Wanting the world to go back to before the election insanity began. It seemed quieter then, and now everybody is raw. We are hurting the way an infected blister hurts, just after it bursts open
And I realize that nothing is over in four days; November 9 is simply a beginning. No matter who arrives in the White House, the people we need to live with are all around us. We have cracked open many new and old conversations in the past year. We are talking about truth, safety, love, hatred, the basics that define our country, and if democracy will survive. Right now these conversations are wounds, but maybe we can begin to heal if we take care of each other.
Everyone I talk with thinks everyone else is going to seed—getting out of hand, taking over, choking out the good, threatening this place itself. Once again, our differences scare us.
I am weeding again, and I notice that when all kinds of plants have gone to seed, some hope can grow out of it. The milkweed carries pods loaded with seeds, each one equipped with a tuft of down to lift it on the breeze. Next year’s milkweed will feed Monarch butterflies on their improbably long travels. Clover grows where we never planted it, fixing nitrogen from the air and into the soil, making it more fertile.
Let’s live in these conversations—this weedy, seedy place. Let’s talk and listen about all our despair and hope. Let’s breathe this same, fine November air together. For now, to help me keep breathing, please tell me your stories of kindness and love—seeds that can grow good things in the long haul. We all need each other and our stories in the days ahead.