“Wanna come outside with me?” I ask Nathan with my hand resting on the door knob. The outside is growing dimmer by the moment, the sun has vanished behind the trees at the back end of the yard, taking with it some of the heat from the day.
“Umm” he starts, without looking up. He’s caught up in his book, some collection of letters from an old politician. I see the look that so often passes my face when I’m forced to return to the present from whatever story I have most recently entered. His blue eyes, the very palest of blues with a light brown rim around the black centers remind me of the ocean. “What are you doing?” he asks, almost suspiciously.
“Don’t worry. I’m not going to ask you to work,” I laugh as I say this. “I’m gonna repot the rosemary. I think you’re right, it is too big for the red pot. I’m going to put it in the big green one,” I respond. The big green pot once held a beautiful bunch of lavender that we had recently moved to the front flower bed when I had decided it was strong enough.
He smiles up at me, a little mischievous but mostly curious. “Can I bring my book?” he asks. I know what he means. I love to talk when I’m gardening. I talk to the plants, to the dirt, to the earth. I talk to no one in particular because I’m usually vocalizing secrets that aren’t meant to be shared, at least not with people. He knows this about me.
I respond with a look. “You can, but you know me. I won’t be able to keep quiet.” I smile, and he smiles, showing off his perfectly straight teeth, no orthodontia required.
“Are you going to put something in the red pot?” he asks.
“The basil. It’s not doing very well in the garden, I think it needs more space and shade” I respond. He smiles. I know he’s laughing on the inside with the way that I describe my gardening, like a nurse caring for patients.
“I’ll watch from in here. Have fun,” he says, as I slide through the doors so that the dogs can’t come out with me. It’s not time for them to garden. I start to gather my things: the rosemary, in its old red pot, the new pot, once a terra-cotta orange, now a spray painted shade of spring green, the organic gardening soil, the little shovel, my gloves that I never wear, and the watering can.
The green pot, empty at the moment, but full of possibilities, is much larger than the red pot. “I know this will seem too large, like you won’t ever fit, but I promise, you’ll make it. This time, you won’t be a big fish in a small pond, you’ll have to be a big fish in a big pond. That’s what my mom always told me about college. A big fish…” I pause the one-way conversation there and rip open the bag of new organic soil. When the bag opens, I inhale deeply. The scent of something both dirty and refreshing, new and old, man-made and of the earth, all of those things rolled into one.
I fill the pot about half way up, the gloves that I never wear long forgotten. The soil covers my hands as I break up the little clumps and move it around to make it all even. “I always used to talk to Mom when we were gardening.”
My fingernails are quickly caked up with soil, and I smile because I know what Nathan will say. Something like, “I don’t even know why you bought those gloves in the first place.” He always smiles when he says it, and I know he hasn’t quite given up on me yet.
“She talks to Dallas now, but it’s not the same,” I whisper to the rosemary. “It’s all drama, drama, drama.”
I take the rosemary and wiggle it around in its current pot. He was right, I think to myself, it did need a bigger pot. When I finally get the pot to release its ceramic hold on the roots of the plant, I’m surprised to find that the roots have grown in a circular pattern up from the bottom. What I take out of the pot is less dirt and more roots than anything. “Yeap,” I say. “It’s definitely time for you to try your hand at being a big fish in a big pond.” Oh man, I’m glad I did this now, I think.
“Still, sometimes I’m a little jealous.”
And I keep talking, but as I’m finishing up the planting, I speak directly to the rosemary, a little encouragement to help the rosemary make it in this new pot, this new space. “Nathan really loves you,” I say. “He uses you all the time. Really, it doesn’t much matter what we’re cooking: vegetables, chicken, pork, soup, anything. If it’s edible, it needs rosemary.” I gently place the rosemary into its new home after I try to break up some of the roots. I reach my arm into the bag of soil, shoulder deep, and use my bare hands to dump the fresh earth into the pot, surrounding the constrained roots with warm soil. “You’re going to love this new home.” In that moment, I’m giving the rosemary an option to grow a different direction.