As a freelance writer, sometimes I forget to leave the house, and I had been cooped up for 48 hours when I stepped out into my backyard to try working outside. Still, under the open sky, I hunched over my laptop screen, mindlessly clicking back and forth between a dozen tabs. A bookkeeping platform reminded me in scarlet letters of past-due checks owed to me. Five or six different articles blared a melange of terrible news. The all-hours dread buffet of Twitter rolled by.
And there it was, staring back at me: one conspicuously empty Google doc. A barren page, where 2,000 words about the new and dreadful abortion restrictions in my home state of Georgia eventually needed to be written. In their place, a cursor blinked indifferently. I closed my eyes.
When I reopened them, my gaze landed upon my Sungold tomato plant. Since I’d tucked it into a large plastic pot earlier in the spring, the plant had grown about as tall as me, and had only just begun yielding a few golden blooms. But today, seemingly out of nowhere, it had borne fruit. Noticing the tight cluster of three tiny, taut green globes for the very first time, I was knocked over with joy. I tweeted a picture with a semi-sarcastic joke. Then, I actually did shed a tear.
My tiny Atlanta backyard is just a narrow plot, not some verdant, perfumed oasis to which I escape in search of precious writerly inspiration. It doesn’t have grass, just brown mulch that sometimes stabs the bottoms of my bare feet. But it has enough nature to put me in the reverie Samuel Taylor Coleridge described as “silent with swimming sense”: Two narrow raised beds and a mismatched yard-sale-like gathering of pots hold fragrant sage, basil, and fennel plants. Gardenias, geraniums, and butterfly bush bloom for pollinators. Nasturtiums, tomatillos, a small lemon tree, purple teepee beans…