“Please, Momma, can I go bury this?” she asks with a pumpkin seed closed into her fist.
“Where?” I respond with a question, buying myself time to think of ways to say no.
My sweet girl has an interest in seeds becoming plants, but we’ve lived in apartments for so long that I haven’t known exactly how to oblige her. We’ve tried a few potted plants, but haven’t had much luck keeping them alive.
She planted a few seeds (pumpkin and maybe an apple seed or two) in a patch of soil, off of the neighborhood playground. She used her hands, and maybe a stick, to dig the holes amongst some kind of wiring or piping belonging to some adjacent AC units. She asks every so often to “go check on her seeds,” and we’ll do that on our walk home from school sometimes. I haven’t had the heart to tell her directly that there’s next to no chance we’ll see a pumpkin or apple tree grow. Even if somehow those holes were deep enough and whatever else is going on in those little patches didn’t hinder them, we will move from this complex before any fruit would show.
“Maybe we’ll have our own dirt you can plant seeds in someday soon,” I offer instead.
It’s the first time in my life I’ve even thought of wanting “my own dirt,” but somehow it feels so natural, so human. It connects me to a majority of people throughout history and all over the world whose ability to have their “own dirt” is more than satisfying a child’s curiosity, it is life. It is a future.
There are actually a handful of plants (alive!) on our porch right now: two poinsettias I bought in December with a promise to my husband I’d try to keep them alive, a cute house plant I bought at Aldi on a whim for decoration, and a plant that was gifted to us earlier this year by someone in our program. They all got moved to the porch one sunny day and they seemed to like it out there, so there they have stayed.
One of the plants, Jubilee has since named her ‘Lily,’ looked extremely sad for a long time. All the flowers were dead and I was pretty close to trashing the whole thing. Until I saw that another friend had simply plucked off the dead flowers, and the green leaves that remained looked just fine by themselves. So I pruned off the dead parts, ended up repotting it and adding some soil, and set it on the porch for some sun.
To my surprise and delight, the flowers have bloomed! It brings me a small but substantial joy to see those plants out there. They’re just sitting there, not arranged thoughtfully or artistically, but they’re alive.
It’s okay if we don’t have more than a few pots full of dirt for a few years longer. Those pots can hold life and cultivate joy and curiosity and beauty. Pots travel fairly well from place to place. BUT only so much can grow in a pot — most roots like to spread out and go deep.
In this season, roots are starting to sound pretty good.
Maybe we’ll have our own dirt we can plant some seeds in someday soon, my heart offers up this little desire, hands up and face toward the sun. We’ll just have to wait and see what grows.