Ah, springtime in Alaska. That time of year when young eagle chicks hatch from their eggs; bears awaken from hibernation; wildflowers bloom; Alaskans plant their gardens of hearty vegetables and post colorful pictures of rhubarb on social media; and I cultivate my perennial bumper crop of abundant self-loathing.
I don't take care of plants or gardens for the same reason I don't have pets: they all die on my watch, and I can't handle the guilt or the shame. And yet it never ceases to amaze me how such a useful and wholesome skill continues to elude me year after year.
It's probably clear to even the most casual reader of this blog that I want to be lots of things that I'm not. And that list (it may not surprise you to learn), includes being one of those people who talks freely and authoritatively of seeds, "starts," (whatever those are), garden boxes, greenhouses, and compost.
I WANT to be someone who goes to the gardening section of a box store and seven weeks later turns my entire backyard into a giant, slow-food, farm-to-table, non-GMO stir-fry, sprinkles it with toasted sesame seeds, takes a picture with my iPhone, and posts it on Instagram to society's universal acclaim.
But while I did do something sort of like this last year when I took a picture of salad and credited the rest of my family with growing a few radishes and spinach leaves, you'll never catch me flexing my dinner for the 'Gram.
Because the only thing I can grow reliably and successfully each year is abundant self-loathing, which springs eternal from my fertile mental soil of incompetence and complacency, and which, as far as I know, cannot be photographed.
I'm not sure what bothers me more: the fact that I suck at gardening, or the fact that I might NOT suck at gardening, if only I tried just a little bit harder. In this way, gardening is like so many other life skills I lack, not necessarily due to native ineptitude, but rather to my sheer unwillingness to make any effort whatsoever at self-improvement: parallel parking, stick-shift driving, boating, tire-changing, quilting, canning, home repair, and pretty much any skill that would help me or others survive the zombie apocalypse. And that's not even getting into the non-practical skills that I lack.
The truth is I feel helpless to do anything about my own helplessness. It's a spiraling paradox of helplessness, if that makes any sense. Just the thought of embarking on the learning curve that might be required to make a zucchini emerge from a box in my front yard feels completely overwhelming to me.
And what does this say about my constitution? What does it mean that I feel overwhelmed by picking up a packet of carrot seeds? That I feel despondent when I see other people's pictures of stinging nettle pesto and sauteed fiddle head ferns on Facebook?
Let's face it: nothing good. Because if you just made stinging nettle pesto, you have your shit together. And sadly, I can only infer through deductive reasoning (i.e. the absence of stinging nettle pesto from my garden on spaghetti) that I do not have my shit together.
I didn't necessarily need everyone else's garden to tell me I don't have my shit together, since there's plenty of other evidence of that, stubbornly clinging to various aspects of my life like so many unwelcome snails on a trestle.
But it's a good reminder anyway.