The lawn has gone to seed. It’s only been five days since it last rained, but the grass has sprouted and the weeds are congregating in the rocks. The edging has slowly crumbled and all boundaries are gone: yard and landscaping are becoming one, nature is taking back its domain. It’s a never ending battle.

May 2020: Gardening

  • “Weeds” — Pulp
  • “Chicago Falcon” — The Budos Band
  • “53.49” — Childish Gambino
  • “Starma” — The Velcro Underground
  • “Get Off the Internet” — Le Tigre
  • “Heavy Balloon” — Fiona Apple
  • ”Birthday Pony” – Fugazi
  • “No-One” — The Psychedelic Furs
  • “Buffalo Calf Road” — A. Savage
  • “Division Day” — Lou Barlow
  • “Michael Myers Resplendent” — The Mountain Goats
  • “I Could Stay Here Forever” — Frank Black
  • “Savory” — Jawbox
  • “I Don’t Know” — Beastie Boys
  • “Let It Rattle” — P.O.S.
  • “Feeling Fine” — Jelly Cleaver (f/ Shunaji, Maddy Coombs)
  • “Particle Man” — Charles Butler
  • “In the Dark Places” — PJ Harvey
  • “CHORE” — Chelsea Peretti (f/ CHIKA)

Every morning, before I head to the basement to work, we go for a walk. Our neighborhood is a kind of aging suburban mashup: new McMansions fade into more traditional 70s ranches; lawns range from finely manicured to wild and untamed. This is what I survey when I walk: the other lawns; the other weeds; the other rocks. I think about the lives connected to those yards. I think about how everyone is comfortable with their own level of upkeep.

My struggle is the balance between ambition and motivation; a person of exacting order, I place complex systems around yard work, and quickly become overwhelmed. I’m just afraid to start, really. I’m afraid to start digging, lest I dig in the wrong place, or too soon, or too late, or without enough time to finish the job.

I’m talking about grass and lawns, sure, but the last few months have shown that this fear of just going for it comes into play in nearly every aspect of my life — and, I’m told, the lives of many others. I struggle with getting myself out there, and I know that this affects friendships.

Last week, I attended a virtual conference. It’s a conference I have attended in person for ten years, and the people I see each year — friends, fellow speakers, colleagues — have become family. They continue to affect my life in wonderful ways.

This year … felt weird. This year I was not seen. I did not have that personal, annual touchpoint: the chance meetings and excited faces, the reminder that these are my friends. In the same way as a needy child requires constant reminders, I really struggled. My mind went to dark and gloomy thoughts: are these still my people. And even while I know these kinds of thoughts are weak grasps for attention, I wondered if they were the consequence of letting things go. I hadn’t done enough to tend to my edges — hadn’t re-lined the brick, or cut away the weeds — and in my mind that’s how I was to be forgotten.

These are the worried ramblings of an enneagram type five. A drive to understand the way things are, stressing about imaginary constructs and worrying about personal application. Measuring relationships and output on usefulness, always wondering whether or not things are okay, isolating and holding back in an effort to not disappoint. The very definition of imposter syndrome, but with people.

But that’s not how things work. And this is a reminder to me, and to those of you who sometimes feel the same way.

Even though I wasn’t there, I was there. More importantly, none of this was about me. It becomes a full-time job to remind myself that relationships can weather a virtual conference, or pandemic-induced isolation, or even a few minutes of awkward conversation and quiet brooding on a Zoom call.

The lawn outside knows this too. It is, by definition, nature. It understands deep in its DNA that, if I wasn’t here — if my family wasn’t here, if no one was here — it could just run free. Adapting and surrounding, it would take back its domain and pull this house to the ground. Whatever pained attempts I took at exacting control before I had disappeared would be undone in months, and it would run wild.

But I am here. I fade out; I fade in. The boundaries are more loosely defined, but by just being here those boundaries are held together, even if I’m not out there reseeding and finely manicuring. It’s never about how much attention is placed in day-to-day maintenance, but how strong the bonds are to begin with. And, how comfortable we are with a bit of messiness.

Sometimes we just need to be comfortable enough to let things be natural; no definitions or shame or worry that we’ve been forgotten. Just the knowledge that we’re all still here, and we’ll still be here when the snow falls and the lawns are once again covered.

This was lovingly handwritten on May 28th, 2020