The greenhouse was my home, but I didn’t know that until a gale ripped off its skin.
Don’t get me wrong, I love being in the midst of awe-inspiring natural forces. I live in a place where cyclical global winds gust through stretches of terrain larger than I can do justice to with my imagination. This is a remote part of an arid channel that stretches from the Paiutes to the Inuits. In the fall, hot winds from the south run headlong into cool ones from the north. For months there is no clear winner, and we are buffeted back and forth in the ever-shifting no man’s land between opposites.
Finally the cool winds prevail, bringing with them short days and a silent, snowy forest. Now it is spring, and this little gardener is again caught between northern and southern giants vying for equilibrium.
When I’m out working in the garden and the winds have blown through me for longer than even my airy mind can take, and my every thought is blown off like a dandelion seed, the greenhouse is my humid refuge.
I step in there and stop. Breathe, warm and still. Sheltered cucumbers twine upward. Broccoli stalks are like trees embowering plump lettuce leaves. Held humidity returns to loamy black soil in succulent drips in this miniature temperate rainforest. I inhale medicines that the grateful plants exhale. This is a womb for adults.
It is always windy this time of year, but this wind does now invoke wonder. It is relentless and cruel. It shakes the trailer in which I sleep, bounces and thumps the solar panels on the roof. I feel that the whole vehicle will roll end over end like a tumbleweed.
The trailer holds, aside from some gaps reopening in the panels. But when I venture outside, I see the plastic of the greenhouse flapping, a pigeon caught by a hawk all wild rustling and wet-towel snaps. The wire cables that bound it have snapped like cheap string. Where the plastic meets the edges I can see growing rents. I run down to help my fellow gardeners save what we can.
The sanctuary is laid bare. I try to hold down the plastic sheets but they are sails billowing on stormy seas. The wind makes me stumble, breaking new sprouts underfoot. I cannot manage this disaster. Like the suddenly exposed plants, I can only try to endure the chilling, drying wind. Rounded hoops are this structure’s exposed ribs, the plants the unprotected organs.
We struggle, and somehow pin beneath stones and logs what covering survives.
Later, I learn from a seasoned gardener that this wind is beyond normal, even for spring. I had never seen him hopeless, but he kept saying, ‘I don’t know what to do. The weather is just so hard to predict now with everything changing.’
And so my little loss links with countless others, forming an asteroid striking the earth.
What happens when we dismantle our home one forest and lake at a time? There are already millions of climate refugees, and now the dragon tail end of our gluttony just tore off the covering from my little den. In the sky I see destruction as vast as the global winds that I cannot imagine. I want to stay in my sanctuary, but all sanctuaries are being uprooted.
Let me not trade sacred work for survival, marching in a suit of polyester armor with far too many others, our shared anxiety stealing any deep breaths we might hope for. Let me not pour caffeine fuel into my veins just so I may scream that I live as I burn like a torch. Don’t feed me steroid cabbages and chemical fruit flavors. That will kill the good creatures in my gut who help me digest food. Keep from me the shadows of concrete trees that keep the most successful the farthest from sensible soil. My river-nerves cannot tolerate the radiation from so much frantic distraction. There are so many people in those places, but I don’t know anyone.
I only value what I lose. Give me a home during my brief walk through this world.
If the wind isn’t too fierce, tomorrow morning we’ll go out and try to put the greenhouse cover back on. We’ve made repairs with strong tape. We’ve gotten new rope that’s stronger and more flexible than the wire we had used. It’s made of plastic, which we were trying to avoid because there’s no good way to recycle it. But gods willing, it should protect our greenhouse cover for another five years.
In the winter, I want to build a smaller shelter within our greenhouse so we can grow greens even while there’s snow outside. Next spring I would grow healing lavender in there. I’d offer a leaf to Divinity first before settling it on my tongue, if I’m allowed.
Hands in soil, seeds to fruit, sanctuary within chaos. I wish this for everyone, but I’m scared.