This week was about putting down roots, quite literally. Isaac's parents generously gave us two beds in their garden to plant whatever we wanted. The kids were thrilled, mostly because the first phase of gardening involved pulling up the weeds and, of course, digging. Our boys could dig for hours, and even after we'd prepared the soil they kept scooping it up to make piles and holes, squishing mud between their toes and collecting it under their fingernails.
Toddlers aren't known for being gentle on sprouting seeds, so we got seedlings from a local farm – a mix of things we like to cook and others that would be fun for the kids to pick and eat right there. Spinach, arugula, bush beans, pole beans, herbs, and a ton of snap peas.
When I realised we would need a few trellises for the beans and peas, my typical American instinct was to buy or order some. But then it dawned on us that there is plenty around we could build with. We fired up the chainsaw and aimed it at the beefy bamboo grove nearby. We slashed those lengthwise into poles and bound them with twine into teepees. The kids wanted to play in them, and I had to eventually shoo them from the garden to get the plants in the ground.
In the end, I ordered way too many seedlings. We packed the lettuces in tightly and planted the herbs in random corners wherever we could find space. When every seedling had found its little spot along the trellises and rows, I looked out on our little patch and imagined these tiny plants growing to feed us through the summer and providing a space for our kids to explore (and nibble). I also couldn't help but think that these exact garden beds grew food that nourished Isaac when he was a little kid. Now it'll nourish the next generation.
Putting plants in the ground and imagining their growth gave me some hope for the days ahead. It has been increasingly lonely here as we continue into a third month of lockdown. Shops just opened for takeout after two months of closures (getting a latte was a big treat this past weekend), but social events are absent and all the playgrounds and schools are closed. This means we've met shockingly few people in our time so far on the island and are starved for community. As if on cue with my own annoyance at lockdown, our toddler starting acting up yesterday. He'd been an angel since we settled in here, and suddenly was talking back and throwing things. He hasn't talked much about our life or friends back in San Francisco, but as I pushed him on the swing in our yard he told me he missed his best friend back in San Francisco. We laughed and reflected happily on some of the things they used to do, like playing on bikes or chasing each other with flashlights on a camping trip. "Can we go see him?" he asked. I didn't know what to say except, "No, not for a while." It broke my heart a little to know our kid doesn't have any friends here to fill that hole. I know someday he will. And so will we, when this pandemic wanes and people come out again. There's no telling when that will happen, but likely not soon (knowing New Zealand). We'll have to be patient and wait and hope. A bit like waiting for a garden to grow.