Amaranth and Adolescence
by Gray Fuller
I began this hobby in the heart of the pandemic, although the seeds of my interests were long sown before. It was sustainability, the thought that I was able to make some small difference in the environment, naturalness, the notion of a home-grown cucumber and the taste to go along with it—and most simply and prominently—the novelty, the not-so-distant dream that I could create for myself something so arduous, beautiful, and primitive, which motivated my beginning. I had relied on my former professor, Mr. Dee, to get me started. The man who bewildered me in the world of Lewis Carrol, Oedipus complexes, and Freudian interpretations, inspired me with a dreamy story of slurping down freshly picked blackberries in the hot sun. He would diligently pick up my phone calls, answer my questions, and guide me on my journey to harvest. Eventually he stopped replying to my pictures of corn tassels and cucumber vines. The pandemic, and my teacher’s plans to retire, dried out his attention to my plot—just as the record-setting temperatures did the same to my pepper plants. The last time I saw the old man was at my school’s garden, a year later. As almost his final goodbye to me—and the professional world—he hacked away at weeds and began to transplant some young tomato plants. The garden, a half barren landscape still occupied with last-season’s crops, seemed to me an ending and a beginning. Like the old Dee’s exit from academia and entry to retirement, there seldom exist distinctions, boundaries, beginnings or endings, in gardening.
Each planting season begins with a scramble for information. I research for hours, pull up crop rotations and seed prices and personal blogs and whatever else might lead me through the Summer. I graph out my crops with rulers and grids, and then stress for days. But as the growing season nears, as work on paper turns to work in my plots, and as a natural reality begins to take shape, my hobby again reminds me of its constraints (or lack thereof). The work my garden requires of me is simple— only made complex by my racing mind: water, sun, dirt. My compost pile, mulch stash, and irrigation system all go above the call of the tomato; its seeds will inevitably populate next season, a subtle, perennial thank you and F you to the father.
My plots blend the beauty, the ugly, the complex and the simple. The sweet stench of dirt, decay, grass-clippings, and coffee grounds rises in the humid air. Insects inhabit the droopy elephant ears of my corn. The young cucumber plants reach up and wrap their fragile green vines around my trellis like children begging for their mamas. The summer heat is constantly upon me. Sweat always finds its way to my forehead. A morning trip to check on the plots, or an evening forage for more green beans results in stickiness. Robins and blue-jays pay a visit to my birdbath, quickly washing themselves in the cool water. This scene, this land confined to my crude fence-line, is what drives my Summer…The quietness of my little backyard, the engine of the passing car along my street. The focus of my neighbor Linwood, his freshly mowed lawn, his turnip greens and garlic (generations as old as him) all battered by the heat. My forgetful brain and zombie-like body moving from the garage to the yard, back to the garage for a shovel—no, a rake— do I have my water? the roses need a trim. The squirrels, the rabbits, the frog: they’re all part of nature, my nature. It’s limited, it’s narrow and kiddish… but it's mine. The wooden tepees made of loose sticks and water-flour glue are mine. The PVC pipes running underground are mine. The netting, loose and yet constant, running around my beds, is mine. But is the corn… is the dirt.. is the bird, is the sun is the sky is the land… mine?
Gray Fuller is a light skinned, mixed kid from St. Louis. He’s a high school senior getting ready for college, a punter and a gardener. Gray has been published in newspapers around the Midwest such as the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the Kansas City Star, and The Tennessean. He loves to write mostly about politics, but feels most proud about the works he writes for himself.
Kierra Reese is a sophomore at Douglas Anderson .At the school, Kierra is an arts major who dedicates their life to her artistry.