The summer garden is in various stages of life and death. My zucchini plants have died. My white squash plants have died. My cucumber plants have died.
My yellow squash plants are staring to look tired. They are still producing but I noticed today the white-frost-fuzz of possible fungus on one plant. This is generally when I know that I’m seeing the end of the squash plants’ lives.
But the tomato plants, the green bean plants, and the eggplant-plants (feeling redundant here) are surging with life, putting out produce just waiting for me to reach in and pluck off the stems. I am competing with the birds over who can get to the tomatoes fastest. So far, they are winning. I’m taking to harvesting while the tomatoes are still green so that I can actually have them in my house and maybe, eventually, turn them into salsa.
Today, as I dragged my hoe through the soil that used to be under the white squash plant, I found a chunk of broken glass. Clean, crystalline, shining in the sun, the curved shard was no larger than a quarter and sat perfectly on top of the soil, a reflective little reminder of danger.
Last night, I dreamed about snakes coiling and uncoiling, escaping from sealed boxes stacked in a corner so that snake handlers could collect them and take them away to whatever poisonous sanctuary existed in my dream. I dreamt about a tiny kitten on the floor not far from the bed I was sitting on top of because that was the only safe place from the snake that was hiding under the bed. I was scared for the kitten; it was tiny and a perfect snack. I remember lurching off the bed and snatching up the kitten before jumping on again. Or maybe that was when the kitten and I were in my truck, driving down a hill that looked to be ninety degrees with a tollbooth at the bottom and my truck didn’t have brakes or the brakes were definitely failing. And the woman in the tollbooth leapt out and hid around the corner and away from the point where my truck was going to smash through the flimsy gate.
I learned an unwelcome truth today. Learned that a stumbling friendship appears to have ended and this saddens me, much like that little bit of glass.
Where did that piece of glass come from? It’s nowhere near my recycling bins. It’s nowhere near my neighbor’s fence line. It could have been buried in the garden since the day I put in the soil years ago. It could have been in one of the many bags of soil or fertilizer that I dump in the garden yearly to replenish the nutrients in the soil.
But this glass is so perfect in its edges and its shininess. I have pulled glass out of the gardens before and they were dulled, their surfaces scratched and marred from years tumbling through soil. And the glass that I found this morning was too neat and too clean.
I don’t think it was put there deliberately. I can’t think this of other people. But I also know that people will leave out metaphorical bits and pieces of broken glass and rusted nails with the full intent that we are to step on them and wound ourselves, become sickened with the heat of betrayal and sadness that what appears to be lovely is just a venom in disguise.
I have been thinking about going to my mountain in West Virginia a lot recently. I keep on dreaming about a specific chunk of road that winds past an old willow tree just before going through the central part of an antique, dying town. The stores are predominantly thrift stores, dollar stores, or business that cater to coal miners or farmers. When I start going over these images in my mind over and over again, it’s time to run away, time to release myself from the fetters that have me chafing at what is holding me back and sprint for the edges of my existence.
I am looking forward to school starting again. I am looking forward to new changes in my career and my professional life because I think that this will pull me away from some of the broken glass I have been walking on recently. Over the years, the mistakes I have made have saddened me and no matter how often I offer atonement and request forgiveness or at least a penance that will let me wash the away the stains, I keep on feeling the dirt being shoved up my nose.
I am sounding petulant, like a victim, a whiney child. Sorry. It’s been a day in which it would be best for me to strap on my new hiking boots and go for a long hike through forests that hold only the whispers of bird song and the contrails of the wind. Instead, I can’t seem to find the right edges to my happiness.
I am sad to see that the friendship that I thought might have been slowly re-developing and re-growing is over. I know that I wasn’t the closest friend to the other person, but I am still a bit surprised and keep on going over and over in my mind the offenses that might have caused the distance, the snipping of a thread that was more frayed that I knew.
Thank God I have church today. I am going to sit in a quiet pew and focus with all my heart, mind, and strength on hope, on love, on compassion. I am not going to be defined by this little bit of broken glass. I will merely add it to a mosaic of other bits and pieces of broken glass, glue them all together, and make them into a stained-glass window.