Transplant

It’s the day after constant rainfall, and the feeling in the air is damp and morose. It lets you know exactly what the weather had been, and threatens to continue raining at any moment.

“At least the transplants are getting lots of water,” says my husband. I think about all the bushes that had been moved — all the major yard work that had been done, both before and during the pandemic lockdown.

Four major bushes had been transplanted, as were five medium-sized plants. A few wild strawberry and chive plants had been saved in the upheaval. In the raised garden bed, the rain had hit the dirt directly for the first time in almost a decade.

My soul — and the events in my life — are mimicking the weather. I had cried myself raw the day before — and now, the day after, things were damp and morose. My face is blotchy and puffy, my skin covered in hives, my eyes perpetually glistening, letting you know exactly how things had been, with threats to continue at any moment.

And it doesn’t take much to create another downpour. A deep hug from my husband is like low barometric pressure and the sobs come like thunder.

The gardens, the front yard, it never felt like my own. They were relics of the previous owners, the happy, overzealous gardeners. The land called for meticulous hands, hands that would spend hours tilling and pruning, knowing which plants flowered and which plants needed to be removed. And because of that, the delicate balance between a controlled garden and chaotic flora was disrupted. The invasive plants took over. The woods that abut our house began encroaching, reaching out with poison ivy like tentacles encircling the ship before pulling it into the sea.

Every year, I’d look out into the mess, the vines wrapping around the porch posts, and want to sort it out. And I’d try: rake out the leaves, pull the poison ivy patches, save the pretty flowers as they bloomed something delicate and bright.

But it was no use. Year after year, this intricate dance only resulted in something that didn’t feel like mine. I felt powerless on my own back porch, my own front yard.

Last summer, I made the switch. I started clearing out the land. Digging up a few flowers, placing them in cleared out flower beds. Transplanting bigger plants into dug up areas that had once been covered with an inch of sod. Ripping up vines until my hands ached and my back was sore. With my husband’s help, we moved some of the bigger bushes to spots in the front garden, the complicated expanse now replaced with simple, patterned plants.

I know some things were lost in the mix. Some flowers didn’t survive the transition. Others were simply dug up because I didn’t have it in me to predict if they’d bloom into beauty or explode into more weeds. A tree that bloomed like lily pads had been cut down. But it had to be done. In the effort to preserve what was beautiful, my world had been taken over and it stopped feeling like my own.

Sometimes you have to mourn what had been and what could’ve been as you destroy what was never good for you.

It has to get easier from here. It has to, it has to, it has to.

The world feels surreal, the day after such a storm. There’s a part of me — the part that always wants to keep the peace — that feels guilty for speaking my mind, for pulling no punches after taking it on the chin for so long. It’s the same part of me that tends to drop her arms by her side, drop her guard, right as her opponent is rearing for a knockout. The part that apologizes for daring to have a defense. The part that only feels empty after finally getting it all out.

But another part of me that knows there was no other option. Sometimes you have to dig up the entire ground. Try to preserve what you think is worth preserving and the weeds will overcome you. Sometimes reclaiming what is yours looks like violent upheaval. Sometimes good-bye has to be sharp enough to draw blood.

Lockdown has been extended another month. Even when stay at home orders are lifted, I don’t expect to be back at work until at least September, for some of my jobs. Maybe never for others. This will give me plenty of time to make use of these transplanted changes. To plant sweet vegetables where once I waded through thorns. To pull out weeds before they can take everything over again. To place rocks around the transplanted bushes, appreciating the minimalist look over the complicated garden. To do everything on my terms, and my terms alone.

To piece together what feels ripped apart. To savor what is truly mine. To step forward as myself, once again.

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