Not commercially. I’m surrounded by farmers and their crops because the land here is rich and fertile, but I’ve always been an accidental gardener. As a kid, I received a free redwood seedling at the state fair. It was scrawny, hardly a foot tall, and I loved it and wanted to see it grow. During blazing summer days, I babied it with a lot of water and shade, year after year until it was sturdy enough to be planted in the ground. That was about all I did in terms of caring for it, and it’s now twenty feet tall and trying to break the fence.
About ten years ago, a pomegranate tree sprang up among the heavenly bamboo plants. I thought it was a vigorous weed until fall rolled around and its fruit ripened into a vivid red. As a fan of the Persephone myth, I was too tickled not to keep it. It’s now a wild-branched, burly-trunked creature that looks like something out of a fairy tale. Again, I did nothing to help it along.
But these lemon trees… These are my first attempt at deliberately growing something from seed. See, my grandfather planted a Meyer lemon tree when he was a young man. He’s gone now, has been for years, but that tree still lives and still grows fruit. It’s hunched with age, though, and has been through a lot of harsh winters and harsher summers. It will die sooner than later, and one day I found myself looking at this tired old tree and wanting to ensure some part of it—and in a way, some part of my grandfather—continued to live on once it did.
So this past January, I took one of the last lemons of the year’s harvest and tried growing the eleven seeds collected from it. An easy enough task, yes? No. There was much fussiness to be had.
Carefully peeling away two protective layers from the seeds and sealing them in a plastic bag with a damp paper towel. Keeping the bag in a dark, warm place for days and pulling it out only to make sure the paper towel hadn’t gone dry or grown mold. Planting the seeds that had grown roots (ten of them!) into peat pellets. Keeping the cats (one that eats anything and one that knocks over everything) away from their faintly-lit, warm shelf.
Once they sprouted, though, it simultaneously became exciting to watch them grow and boring to talk about. There are only so many ways I can say, “Three have grown a new pair of leaves! I KNOW BECAUSE I COUNT EVERY MORNING.” Because even though these little motherfuckers have amazing spurts, the fact is that growth is a quiet, mundane thing. It’s not always steady—last month, there was an eight-day heatwave during which the trees didn’t grow at all because they were too busy not dying. And sometimes there are setbacks—of the seven that flourished, five were attacked by a katydid before I found and destroyed it like the fist of an angry god. Yet even those are now bristling with new leaves.
Originally, this second post on my shiny new author blog was going to be about when I started writing and why I became a writer at all. Then I realize it’d be a boring fucking post because writing is also a quiet, mundane thing. It’s fair to say that my stories ooze from the primordial muck of my heart, the same sort of raw emotion that led me to grow lemon trees because I missed my grandfather and wanted to pull a bit of hope out of the loss. But that doesn’t make being a writer interesting. The magic is in writing day after day, in being persistent, while a story grows and develops a life of its own.