My need to plant everything is not new. But before Matt died, I could use at least some of the season’s harvest to feed my family. Back then, I also had an office job, so any surplus produce could always be passed on to co-workers.
Matt drowned in the middle of July. Even in much cooler Maine, mid-July was big harvest season. There were lettuces and peas, chard and brassicas. There were flowers and the very beginnings of beans. After he died, I couldn’t bear to look. I couldn’t even enter the garden.
I had the same feeling in the garden as I did in the grocery store, absentmindedly filling my cart – who’s going to eat this stuff? There is no one left to feed. There is no one left.
My need to grow things and to feed people suddenly had nowhere to go. I stood in the garden seeing meals we would not make. I stood in the garden touching plants that sprouted back in a life were things made sense. That life was gone. Greens went to seed. Tomato plants fell over and did not get picked back up. Every garden task, every garden chore – why bother. Why bother. There is no one left to feed.
I’ve always loved my people through food. It’s what I do. When Matt died, I lost my family. I lost the people who received that expression of my love. My garden fell to waste because there was no longer anyone to receive it. There was no longer any reason to grow anything.
Though I eventually spent my days working on a vegetable farm, I rarely took any produce home. Seeing a fridge full of too much food for one person was too much on me.
It still is.
Though my interest in growing food has returned, I still catch myself. Before I came in to write this, I stood in my new garden, grazing on beans and checking the broccoli. I flashed on those early days when I could not stand the sight of all this food. I flashed, at the same time, on Matt kneeling down in our first garden together, planting his own patch of black beans.
It was nice to see him there.
Out in this garden, the corn is edging on ten feet tall. The tomatoes are coming in all at once. The chickens are laying half a dozen eggs a day.
For now, for now – there are still not quite enough people to feed. It’s a million times different than it was those years ago. I have great friends, and an expanding network. I have neighbors and friends. But there’s still way too much food – the ghost of the family that was. There’s still a hole at the table.