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Between to and fro

Alone.

It’s just been me with the garden since my girlfriend left for California a couple of weeks ago. She took the dog with her, but I keep forgetting that. I stand up from my desk at home every so often to take Soleille for a walk, and then a part of me sinks when I remember the pup is not here.

I’m the one who needs a walk. But I’m reluctant to step away from the to-do list of my office without a valid to-do item that includes walking the dog.



The hours sift past, staring into the computer screen. The fan whirs in the corner of the room, cooling sweat on my back. Friday evening finds me in the same place. I start to feel anxious, lost inside myself.

How did I live like this, day in and day out, for those years before I met Mandi?



I finally step outside as darkness falls. I stroll down to the dog park for some fresh air in a natural setting. It feels a little odd to go there without a dog, like going to a playground without any kids of my own, and I’m glad to find the place almost empty.

A sliver of moon glows through patches of rain clouds. Mist rises in the field. Tall, wet grass brushes my hands and thighs. Drops fall on my toes stepping softly in sandals along damp, black soil. Far-off laughter from a house up the hill echoes faintly across the air like a fading musical note. The sounds of cows munching grass in the pasture are more pervasive on this silent summer night. Even the bubbling creek is barely heard, as if swallowed in the mist. I breathe in the solitude. Anxiety drains, and I recognize an old part of myself.

The loneliness caught me off guard only hours after Mandi left to visit her family. After so many years of living alone in an apartment without TV — then in a tent; then an old RV — I never imagined I would forget exactly what it was like; and I never imagined that I would also need the periodic touch of loneliness as much as I needed companionship.

When I get home from the walk, I go into the garden and turn on the hose. I water each plant diligently, thinking of Mandi far away. The garden is her baby, and in her absence it becomes my shrine to her. It comforts me to shower the plants with love.

I notice we have three pepper plants already producing. A glimmer of excitement shoots into me. I can hardly wait to tell Mandi. Then I realize I won’t even be able to call her on the phone for five more days.

In fact, I have almost no idea when I will hear her voice again. Is this what it’s like to be a parent of grown children?

I call my dad for the first time in two weeks. I apologize for being distant, for letting time get away, but he doesn’t mind. That’s just life, he says.

I go to bed content. Arms and legs sprawl across the whole mattress like a starfish. The fan whirs in the corner.

In the morning I have a renewed sense of independence. It’s nice to do what I want whenever I want without affecting the person next to me.

I drive to Rifle Mountain Park, hoping to find someone to climb with. I bump into some acquaintances who become full-blown friends by the end of the day.

We sip beer and laugh, and I realize it’s the first social contact I’ve had in days. I thought I was going out for climbing but human interaction is apparently what I wanted most.

I come home refreshed, more optimistic as I sit down at my computer once again.

The fan keeps spinning through the hot days, which seem so long and so fast. There are moments I’m not ready for anything to begin or end, but on it goes, flowing so fluidly I can never examine everything in this existence like I want to.

There is so much in my life — it’s good to lose some of it for a while in order to find other things I had lost.

And in the middle of those waves splashing to and fro — that’s Life, bitter yet so incredibly sweet, a basil leaf plucked from a garden I will tend as long as my back holds out.

— “Open Space” appears on the second and fourth Friday of the month. Derek Franz writes for the Eagle Valley Enterprise and lives in Carbondale. He can be reached at dfranz@eaglevalleyenterprise.com.


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