Through the morning winking between white oaks, through the steam rising up from my dark roast, through the headached fog of a bad night’s sleep, I can see my garden. From my office window all one hundred odd square feet lay bare; Maryland dirt formed into six long rows, surrounded by a Hadrian’s wall of recycled concrete pavers, barely ankle high, just enough to keep peace with the armies of grass on the other side. Gangly sweet peas cling desperately to bamboo teepees while across the road, their broccoli and Brussels sprouts neighbors can’t seem to rid their houses of pests. Tomato tenements block the light to the carrot slums below, and two stately Willamette hops scrape the sky, regal, austere.
A tell-tale banjo-pluck of an incoming email reminds me that now is not the time for dirt on hands. Now is the time for documentation and duties, for corporate and coworkers, for processes and paychecks. The job bought and keeps the land, but the land craves all my attention. On days when summer lets off the throttle and drops the heat into second gear, it becomes very difficult not to trade the sickly glow of blue monitors for the healthy glow of yellow sun.
I planted this year subconsciously, passively. Seeds were purchased; pots were filled; soil was fertilized; sprouts were watered. Not until I plucked the first pod from my peas, or saw the first hop cone popping from bine, did I realize that growing was my mind’s natural reaction to losing; green life a spiritual replacement for gray death. My obsession with creating a garden from seed, from creating life where there was just a handful of potential before, wasn’t random or strange, but grief manifest.
My heart is broken, ne’er to be repaired. The faults and cracks have finally cleaved the thing in two, left it beating two conflicting rhythms; one rasorial and flighty, the other responsible and grounded. Having two hearts presents a professional conundrum, because a sundered heart is a free heart, a heart suddenly opened wide to all the realities from which we often hide, a heart that by experiencing the worst, has nothing left to fear. A broken heart is to be envied if we’re being honest, as its owner awakes from the walking dream to a world where all possibilities and eventualities are real, both good and bad. A broken heart is liberation through pain, an audit on your life with red hot poker, an emancipating agreement signed with emotional and spiritual blood.
As I sit at my desk, trying my best to carefully sort technical from superfluous and turn jargon into justification, the mewing of a catbird and the wind rearranging the leaves of the trees pulls my mind away. The new half of my heart beats wildly, impulsively, telling me to go spend my time how I want to spend it, not how my brain tells me I should spend it, logically. More often than not, before the pragmatic tie-wearing half of my psychomachia can even show up to field an argument, I’m off running, or weeding, or watering, or just lying on my back, eyes closed, relishing all that extra Vitamin D production.
Even though it’s broken, this new heart is much kinder than my old heart. At least half thumps with jeux de vie, shedding apprehension about pursuing what I love, telling me with each cardiac cascade that I’m alive and as a result, should probably do my best to live. In the sea of red blood cells swims a spirit born again, a spirit who considers my brewing equipment more important than my government issue laptop, the fledgling fruit on my tomato plants more important than that ever looming deadline.
So nightly I scrub the dirt and toil from under my fingernails, rinse the sweat from my face and hair, plop down on the couch tired but satisfied. I pour myself into life outside of the nine-to-five like a beer into a glass, taking on a new shape where I had long been confined, roaring to a bubbly head with enthusiasm, settling to relax and and enjoy the creamy complexity of a Friday night heavily hopped with good stories and good friends. My heart is broken, split in two, and contrary to all long-held belief, to all established understanding of the matter, it may be the single best thing that ever happened to me.