It began as a faint whistle that I paid little attention to. New York City is loud. All the fucking time. Sometimes you realize a car alarm has been wailing for 20 goddamned minutes and you somehow managed to keep reading your Bible without distraction despite the blaring and incessant honking. Jesus Christ. New York City is so loud, in fact, that it completely ruins your perception of silence and a trip to someplace serene and quiet like a forest can make it nearly impossible to fall asleep because the quiet is so quiet that it is actually more deafening than the noise you are used to. So, no, the faint whistle meant nothing to me and I drifted off to sleep.

Then BOOM. And then HOWL.


I bolted downstairs in my nightgown with my hair still in curlers and I threw open my patio door. My new garden was fucking under attack and I had no idea what to do. I ran back and forth across the deck in a panic. My deck is only about 8 feet wide so it was more like I was pivoting back and forth across my deck. Not running. The umbrella was flapping around as the gusts threatened to send it flying into the night sky and carry it into the clouds. I quickly cranked it shut. My jalapeno plant was bending severely and I swear I could hear it screaming WHOOOOOAAAAA so I moved it into a corner to protect it. I’m part Mexican. NOBODY MESSES WITH DADDY’S JALAPENOS. I picked up a few of the more delicate flowers and moved their pots into the kitchen where they could sleep in peace. I said prayers for everyone else and started to go back inside. I glanced back at my little green children once more. My juvenile basil plant looked back at me, its leaves trembling in terror, and gave me a death look and said GIRL, GET YOUR ASS BACK OUT HERE! DON’T PLAY! HEY, WHERE YOU GOING!? HOW YOU GONNA’ MAKE CAPRESE SALAD WHEN I’M DEAD!? NO. NOOOOOOO! I silenced basil’s screams by closing the door and went back to sleep listening to the howl of the wind as it passed under and through the screens covering our windows. My poor garden. My poor babies. Everyone is going to fucking die tonight. And there is nothing I can do about it.

The morning came and no one was dead.

Ok. WHO THE FUCK AM I BECOMING? What is sobriety doing to my brain?! I garden now?! What’s next? Is it only a matter of time before I start doing that stupid horse dancing shit Mitt Romney’s family does? Am I going to start weaving my own Navajo style rugs on the brand new loom I purchase from the reservation in Arizona? When are my Martha Stewart and Real Simple magazine subscriptions going to start? When will I start making my own vanilla extract?

Fine. I garden. I’m not embarrassed by that. Why should I be? But I AM shocked by it. Because it never seemed like the kind of thing that I would have any interest in whatsoever. When I was drunky drunk drunk all the time, the only thing I grew was MY ASS and also MOLD from leaving leftovers in the refrigerator for months on end.

Wait. No, I did garden once. When I was 19 years old and really into being a “raver”, my roommate came up with a really good idea to grow magic mushrooms in our apartment and then sell them for a profit. She did a bunch of research on the internet (which was still REALLY new) and ordered vials of liquid spores to be delivered to our house. Apparently, ordering these spores was legal at the time. Growing them was not. Which is stupid because why else would you order mushroom spores but to grow them? She roped me into this seemingly innocent business venture and for some reason, the mushrooms wouldn’t stop growing. We had more than we knew what to do with. So we ate some every weekend and saw pretty stuff and slowly I started to feel enlightened but also really stupid and depressed. And I stopped putting any substance into my body whatsoever for a few years. Until I met alcohol.

So, yeah. I have gardening experience I guess. But gardening just for the sake of things being pretty? 88 days ago, it would have never occurred to me.

It all started about a month ago when the boyfriend and I started throwing around the idea of getting some patio furniture. We thought it would be nice to have a place to sit and relax in the summer. Then we started talking about possibly getting a few low maintenance plants for greenery. And NOW we have ended up with a small jungle. I just can’t stop. I keep finding ways to improve the design and layout and fill in a spot here and there with a newly added plant or flower. It’s like an evolving art piece that I can change and recreate to suit me on any given day. And I just fucking love it.

BUT I WORRY. I worry about the plants dying. I worry that I’m giving them too much water or not enough. I’m worried an asshole raccoon will show up and eat my cilantro and habaneros. I’m worried that I might lose something good. And if I’m not really fucking careful and attentive, I absolutely will. I could lose it all. It takes a lot of work and maintenance to keep an outdoor space flourishing. I think the old me would have seen something so intensive as being a chore and a major inconvenience. But it’s actually quite the opposite. While I do have apprehensions and healthy concerns about the wellbeing of my plants, it is absolutely worth it. There is nothing like being able to sit down on a Sunday morning with a cup of coffee and a newspaper and be surrounded by LIFE and BEAUTY and… BEES. OMG BEES WATCH OUT! Breathe. Bees are good. Disgusting. But good. Don’t be afraid of bees. Just… don’t let them go in your mouth… or kill you.

The parallels between my garden and the attention and care I’m giving to my recovery are astounding. It’s work. Nothing worth having comes for free. The more I nurture and give to everything around me, the more beautiful it becomes and the more joy I receive. And I’m starting to realize that joy begets joy. It’s contagious in our own lives. Making one positive choice that results in a glimmer of happiness makes me want to do something else that’s positive.

“I’m like The Constant Gardener,” I told my boyfriend.

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“Like in that movie. The Constant Gardener. I’m, like, gardening all the time. Like he did,” I said.

“That’s not what that movie is about,” boyfriend replied.

“Oh. Well, I’ve never seen it. Why is it called that?” I asked.

“I don’t know but it’s mostly about murder,” he said.