Today’s letter will be a departure from what I usually write, mostly because I have been consumed with projects. Projects! What is life without a good project?
The first is very much related to this letter, which is that I have launched a new website. I like the format and flow of a weekly letter sent to your inboxes, but I want a place for letters to live once the week is done. If you would like to take a look, and I hope you do, you’ll find it at todayletter.com.
The garden continues to grow, and now I am finding myself on many evenings digging into the backyard. Literally digging. I am digging a trench, or something that looks a lot like a trench. A couple of weekends ago I was back there pulling weeds and cleaning old pots and searching for mosquito breeding lairs so I could destroy them. I could write many a long and ranting page on how much I loathe mosquitoes. I loathe them as much as they love me, and both sentiments seem to increase exponentially. So now I have taken to hunting down and killing their children. It would be hard to loathe something more.
Moving along. I was shuffling around, hunting and weeding, when I grabbed a tuft of unwanted sprouts and yanked, and a clod of dirt came flying out with them. In the bald spot that clod left behind, I could make out what looked like a smooth, flat piece of stone. I picked at the edges and found more stone, and then more, and before long I was hacking at the backyard, trying to excavate this covert, stony path.
It has only led to more mystery. The building I live in is old, although I have no idea what number I might ascribe to its age. I’ve known that it was old since I moved in more than three years ago, but digging up this backyard, I get the sense that it is older than I imagined. I am digging up the oddest things. Lots of broken glass and rusted bottle caps, soda can tabs, gaskets and metal thingamajigs. There’s the occasional plastic wrapper with Chinese lettering. Wet, unraveling cigarette butts. It’s like someone sprinkled bags of trash all over the yard and then covered them up with a foot a dirt. What? Why?
I bought a shovel, and some bandanas to tie around my forehead and catch the sweat from my brow. I have so far unearthed a rounded, albeit broken, front courtyard area and a long walkway that reaches to the back fence. I am making a muddy mess. But I think when I’m done it will be awesome. Today’s goal is to finish digging, shape the excess dirt into berms, and sprinkle creeping thyme seeds everywhere and see where they grow. I have much bigger plans for spring.
Also, I am painting again. Maybe I shouldn’t say “again,” because I was never much of a painter. But there was a time when I was pretty good with pencils. For what still amounts to nearly two-thirds of my life I sketched and sometimes painted and made things with clay. I missed it. I am woefully out of practice and trying a whole new medium, which is watercolors. Hoping I will improve over the coming weeks. I’ll give updates, as I will also continue to do for the garden.
Finally, today is my mother’s birthday. She would have been 68. I thought about writing a letter about this fact, but I am still processing how I feel—and part of what I feel is avoidant. I am also trying to do things on these days, so filled with her, that are not mournful but, rather, evoke solace. I miss her, I mourn, I will mourn all my life. But I want to try to live in my love of her, not my loss.
I read a passage today that continues to sit with me. From My Struggle, Book 1, by Karl Ove Knausgaard, a book I finally decided to pick up after being told by too many people that I should:
The house seemed different then, when she was in it, and the strange thing was that I could feel it; if, for example, I had gone to sleep before she returned and I awoke in the middle of the night, I could sense she was there, something in the atmosphere had changed without my being able to put my finger on quite what it was, except to say that it had a reassuring effect. The same applied to those occasions when she had come home earlier than expected while I was out: the moment I set foot in the hall I knew she was home.