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  • Anjali Gupta

The Quarantine Garden

Both my mother and my aunt get tremendous happiness from their large vegetable gardens. They walk down the yard each summer day to decide if the tomatoes are ripe enough, to check in with the experimental veggie of the season, and to confirm the bunnies have stayed away. During the spring quarantine and prior to any vegetable growth, the garden has already been rich in its supply. It is a daily activity outdoors, a source of individual joy, and an element to a routine at home. Though I have always loved picking and eating Mom's fresh vegetables throughout my life, I have always questioned my own ability to consistently tend to these plants day in and day out amidst the hectic schedules of my own summer life. If I am being completely honest, my friends' beautiful gardens with services who help grow and tend to the plants have tempted me along the way. Something has always stopped me...partly space and partly understanding my Mom's joy is in the journey as well as the destination.

For the past ten weeks. I have watched people throughout the community inspire with optimism, explore new ideas, engage in creative ways, and organize homes and routines to match a new normal. As we approach the end of the third month, Memorial Day Weekend was unusual and at moments difficult. It memorializes Americans who served and died on the front lines for our country; today close to 100,000 Americans have lost their lives to Covid-19, some of whom have been on our own front lines. In addition, it is traditionally a long weekend that also signals summer with pool openings, barbecues, and white jeans; the absence of these traditions brought the questions of the summer ahead front and center.

As we pondered plans for the months ahead, the idea of a vegetable garden again re-surfaced in my mind. So Tuesday morning I asked my son if he would accompany me to the nursery to take on a small and manageable version of "a vegetable garden." It was a great start to my day to have some time alone with my oldest son. Having only done online groceries during the quarantine, this was my first physical encounter with the retail world. The journey was exactly what I needed. Walking around that nursery and seeing so many elderly women with masks and gloves there to buy flowers, herbs, and vegetable plants gave me a sense of energy and comfort. It starts early in life. We find people we respect a few years ahead in the game and look to them for guidance and words of wisdom on the path that awaits. Many amazing women provide doses of this for me through their different styles, different backgrounds, different outlooks. They have assisted me in moments ever since high school, through college, through medical school and residency, through my relationships, through my career, through parenting, through service, through life, and through this quarantine. Though I looked around and did not know these women (except for my surprise treat to run into Elizabeth there), the sense of resilience I felt walking amidst them stayed with me all day long.

After I got home, I planted one pot of vegetables with each of my children. Being outside with the soil and the sunshine and having individual time with my children was so gratifying. Engaging with my young adults in this way took my mind back many years when excavating in the dirt with large trucks could be a full afternoon exercise. Will these vegetables grow? Who knows. We hope. Does 4 container pots of vegetables constitute a garden? I am going to answer, "Yes." In Bon Jovi terms (See the blog on him if you have not), "Do What You Can." It is only partly about the bada-- squash you pick from it, it is also about the journey. The first 24 hours of this journey are exactly what I needed. This summer will not look like we thought. The things we had planned are not going to happen. But I have learned repetitively in life, when one door closes, another one does open. You just have to be open to shifting directions and taking a step down the unexpected path that lies ahead. Perhaps this one may lead to a few vegetables also?

You may also enjoy:

The New Yorker: The Tonic of Gardening In Quarantine

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