up by the roots


My nephew and I planted some veggies in my deck pots months ago. And whether out of not enough watering or too much or not enough sun or too much or whatever other variables, nothing made it much past the germinating stage other than the carrots. But, in my overzealous attempt to create abundance in the pots, I threw in so many seeds that the poor things didn't have much room to grow. About a month ago, when Eli was over, I pulled a few of the carrots up. They were tiny, midget-sized, hardly a bite's worth. 

I withheld the instinct to pull the rest of them up. I thought they needed more time, even though the seed packet had said they would have been fully grown by now. I thought maybe just a little extra hibernation and care would be enough to stretch them into their lithe carrots selves at last.

But no. This was it for them. This was the furthest they'd get. I think I knew it, deep down inside of me, and just didn't want to let go of the picture of what I wanted them to look like, what I wanted them to be. But yesterday, while my nephew watered the barren pots on the deck, I decided to pull the whole lot out. This was where they were and how they were and that was not going to change.

. . .

I am writing this from Portland, Oregon, where I have met my mother and a family friend to participate in a drug intervention for my brother. I could tell you the whole story leading up to this very moment (this every moment), but for now I just want to share this: that he has accepted the offer for help and this evening enrolled in a drug treatment facility in the area. 

Needless to say, there is tremendous relief in reaching this milestone. When my brother agreed to go to recovery, I sobbed through what felt like every inch of soft tissue in my body. I lay my face into his chest and allowed myself to collapse. I hadn't realized just how much grief I had been carrying until I allowed myself to give into it.

And maybe he will do the same. Maybe he will be able to connect to that part of himself that has been lost and sad and scared so he can begin to heal. I hope so.

I don't know what the next 30 days will bring, or if he will even elect to remain in recovery. But I was keenly aware, walking up the front door of his apartment, not knowing anything about what would happen on the other side of it, that there would be no better opportunity than this. That the ground would be no more fertile if we waited longer, and that my brother would not be any closer to electively seeking treatment if we just gave him more time. 

This is going to be one day at time. For him, for me, for all of us. That's the best there is right now. And that's fine by me.

. . .

Last night, before I went to bed, I plucked a few carrots from the pile I'd made in the kitchen. I'd washed them free of dirt and their clean, stubby selves lay in a cluster on the counter, green stems still attached. They weren't much to look at, really. Not at all like their brethren taking up real estate on the Whole Foods shelves. These were not carrots to be sold in gourmet farmers' markets, clasped in voluptuous bunches into a cloth bag. These were not the pride of the season, or prizewinners at the county fair.


These were carrots for late-night eating under a pair of overhead kitchen lights next to an empty stainless steel sink. These were carrots planted while a 4-year-old boy stood next to the pot, already anticipating the harvest. These were carrots that hadn't reached their full stretch, that had failed to unwrap into the height that had been intended for them. 

And yet. And yet. They were the most remarkable shade of orange. And sweeter than you can imagine.