Almost two years ago, my husband and I bought our first house. After six years of living in an apartment with a cat who will eat anything green (seriously – basil in the windowsill, daisies in a vase, none of them stand a chance), we were ready to start gardening.
The first thing that happens when you start a garden is you tear things up. I tore up endless handfulls of some extremely hardy groundcover, and lots of brown ferns. The second thing that happens is you plant things, and then some of them grow. The third thing that happens is weeds grow incredibly well in the place where your failed plants didn’t.
I love gardening. I am ecstatic when I run out to clip some fresh oregano; I am still recovering from the failure of my dead bay leaves.
However, when I titled this blog grow, I don’t think I only meant that I would write about trying to grow a garden. I thought I’d try writing about growing life, or something close to that. I’ve spent the last eight years in Portland, and so I’m overly self-conscious because I know everyone here is cooler and more ironic than I am – especially when I start to throw out words like “grow”. But, there you have it.
A year ago, we became vegan (my husband Nick and I are one of those annoying couples that is so similar that most of my sentences can use the pronoun we instead of I). I’m still afraid to tell people I’m a vegan, because non-vegans have associated the word with someone who will automatically judge them and feel superior. You may have gathered this already – but I do not feel superior to anyone, so I promise that you can read on as a non-vegan. I’m just telling you, so you are not surprised when you can’t find recipes with meat or butter.
In case you’re wondering, I’ve been vegetarian since I was 13, and acted in a summer theater program in Madison, Wisconsin. We put on Androcles and the Lion and I played Ceasar, which as you may have already guessed, was quite a stretch for me. I loved it. I loved the play. Half the kids you meet in summer theater programs are vegetarians. So was George Bernard Shaw, the playwright. So was I by the end of the play. I have been ever since.
Why did I become vegan? It’s for health, environmental, and animal rights reasons, which can be explained by others much better than I ever will. I will speak a little about the health issue though – I have a disease called Ankylosing Spondylitis, which is an autoimmune disease. Basically, my body attacks itself all along its spine. Sometimes, it hurts like hell. I’m on a medicine that you inject every two weeks and the list of potential side effects scare me, but I don’t know what else to do, because it helps me to walk. Nick and I thought that maybe veganism would help it (we watched Forks Over Knives). It has – although I haven’t been able to successfully go off the medicine yet. I’m still hoping.
Anyway, when you become a vegetarian as a Wisconsin teenager, you learn how to cook out of necessity. I remember my first summer of being vegetarian, looking down at a plate of grilled vegetables and feeling an overwhelming sense of gratitude. It was so colorful – I didn’t know food could be like that. There was also a tomato casserole I made, and when you have tomatoes with just some rice and flavorings, you really taste them.
This is why I cook. And even if it never does change my health, this is why I cook vegan.
All my life, since the time I wrote a story about unicorns when I was home sick in the first grade, I’ve wanted to be a writer.
I’m not – at least, I barely make any money from it. I’m an English teacher. But, I do write. I’m in the process of writing a novel that I’m afraid will sound cliche and silly if I try to summarize it here.
I write because when I do, I feel less of me and more of me at the same time. It’s the same feeling I get from gardening, or cooking, or playing piano (which didn’t fit neatly into my blog title). But the feeling is even a little bit better when I write. I don’t know what it is for you, but whenever I talk about writing, imagine that.
And whenever I talk about publishing or rejection letters or wondering if I could ever make a living off of writing, imagine the thing that scares you the most.