In sixteen years, she will leave the garden. She will tell the buyers of the house how to tend each patch and plant, carefully, and they’ll do it for a while and then the garden will fall apart, because they have other concerns. The soil remembers, though. The soil always remembers.
In eleven years, her firstborn child will pick unripe blueberries in mid-spring, try to taste them and recoil from the sour. She will laugh and take pictures on whatever the equivalent of a phone camera is in ten years. She’ll post them on whatever the equivalent of Facebook is in ten years. She will wonder why she ever thought life was meaningless.
In fourteen years, the cat will die and she will bury it in the garden, knowing that its body will fertilize the crocuses come spring. And when the first crocuses emerge a few months later, she’ll sing the same sing her father used to sing every April, and she will be OK.
In three years, she will adopt a cat. She’ll let it wander the garden, peruse the stepping stones with caution, paw the dirt and hiss at the thorns that nearly get caught in its fur. Lucky the fence is there. She’ll take the cat back into the house and finally name it.
In six years, she’ll meet her wife. She’ll take the beautiful woman back to her house, nervous and unsure if the other woman feels the same way, with the pretenses of making a pie together. The other woman will pick blueberries with her and laugh and tell her that blueberry pie is her favorite. She’ll pretend that she had not already learned this from several hours of online stalking. The sun will catch the other woman’s hair and she will feel melancholy seeing it. They will kiss for the first time in the kitchen later, making pie crust together.
Two years ago, she moved into the house and told herself that one day there would be a garden out there. She was too tired to dig up the grass and till the dirt and build a fence that day, though. She was tired from moving but it wasn’t just that. She was tired from being alone and working and being misunderstood. The soil knew this. It would still respond to her hands and her tools and be ready for life, but it would also be ready whenever she was ready. Behind the place where the garden would be, forsythia bloomed and reminded her of the golden hair of a woman who’d broken her heart. She wasn’t ready to go into the backyard yet.
In one year, she will build a fence around the garden. After her first year of gardening, she will have learned that a fence is necessary. She will snicker under her breath, thinking evil thoughts about the rabbits and squirrels and deer who won’t get their greedy little paws on her tomatoes this time. She will soon learn that squirrels know how to climb fences.
In eight years, she will marry the love of her life in the backyard. They will say their vows under a bower of roses that they grew together. They and their newfound friends and family will eat pasta filled with summer tomatoes from the garden and she and her new bride will cut into a blueberry pie together and smile.
In nine years, they will celebrate their anniversary under the roses and get an email that the fertility clinic will, in fact, accept their insurance, and they can start planning to have a baby.
In two years, it will be a horrible grey day in March and her knees will collapse under her and she’ll cry because nothing makes her feel good anymore, not even the stupid garden, and why did she think getting out of the house would help? And slowly but surely, water droplets will start falling. Her hair will be crowned with rain. The soil will get wet. Her pants will become muddy. Her hands will become muddy. The rain and the soil know time and they know that yesterday, tomorrow, and today are fluid as a river and ever-changing as a garden. They know about everything that has happened to her and everything that will happen to her, same as they know how to feed the roots of the basil plant and the asparagus. She will remember her future and think that she needs more life around her, and contemplate getting a cat.
One year ago, she came back from the store with a bunch of potted plants and told herself that this time, none of them will die. She forced herself to believe it and she lined her windowsill with succulents and herbs and this time, none of them did die.
In thirteen years, she will go to the farmer’s market with her jams for the first time, and she’ll make friends that teach her how to market her products better. She’ll meet friends who even help her with her day job, so that in sixteen years, she’ll have enough money to move to a bigger house in a better school district.
In five years, she will accept help from her friend and go to the baking club that meets downtown. She’ll spend most of the time hiding behind her friend and not talking to anyone, for the first few months. Then she will get infatuated with a beautiful woman who loves pies and start learning to speak up. She’ll thank her friend a thousand times and she will tell her cat about it while she harvests butternut squash.
In fifteen years, her daughter’s friends from play group will all come over to carve pumpkins and she will panic because a bunch of crows destroyed several of the pumpkins and one of her daughter’s friends will burst into tears because they wanted a pumpkin and they will wither away into abject misery if they don’t get a pumpkin right this second. She will save the day with a butternut squash that she will tell the child is a special pumpkin.
In seven years, she will invite her best friend from childhood to come to her house for Thanksgiving and they will collect acorns and leaves and discuss her best friend’s husband, and her girlfriend, and giggle about nearly-forgotten inside jokes. She will remember that happiness is not a new invention of her new life, but has been there the whole time, holding her up even if she was too scared and tired to know it.
In six months, her neighbors will move in and their grandchildren will run wild over her backyard, nearly trampling the garden, and she’ll be fine with it because she actually quite likes kids, even if she knows she’s too immature to handle them. In four years, she will babysit those grandchildren while her neighbors give her tips on how to build beanstalks. The grandfather will build her a wooden trellis and present her with it, and she will hold herself not to cry. They’ll spend June and July trading produce. The grandkids will torment her cat with a laser pointer. She will never forget their advice.
In fifteen years, both her neighbors will have died. Their grandchildren will be in college. The bean trellis will have fallen apart and been replaced with one that she built with her friends from the farmer’s market. She will be moving out soon. The new neighbors are much younger and she won’t know them as well.
In sixteen years, it will be the end of winter again. The soil knows. It will be ready to melt and feed and turn and grow. It will be ready for rain. And she will prepare it for the last time.
Today, she tills the soil. Tomorrow, she brings her potted plants out to the new garden. Basil, tarragon, rosemary, and thyme. Blueberries and strawberries for pie. She wants there to be a rosebush one day. She’s going to plant asparagus and butternut squash. In the spring, there will be fine soft greenery. In the summer, there will be sweet tomatoes and beautiful berries. In the fall, there will be gourds. In the future, there will be crying, rain, and love. Today, she makes a garden from scratch.