tiny garden: tender herbs.

June 29, 2020
tender herbs | reading my tea leaves
tender herbs | reading my tea leaves

Neighbors of ours lent us the key to their back garden.

Four flights down and half a block over, I make our way down a corridor, across their spotless kitchen, and out the screen door—wrought iron scrolls over aluminum mesh—into the very green heart of our shared Brooklyn block. The neighbors’ little rectangle is half concrete and half grass and all the way Heaven.

The heart-shaped leaves of an Eastern Redbud act as protective parasol for the table where I start to work, but it’s not the only shade to be found. There are towering pin oaks and the tallest Japanese maple I’ve ever seen. A few doors down, sunlight streams through the overlapping fronds of a locust tree. I’m tempted away from work to play naturalist but I decide to tuck leaves into my notebook to ID after dark. There’s birdsong back here, too, and a ceaseless rattling roar of air conditioning units. A chatty neighbor talks on the phone, hidden from view by a chainlink fence covered in English ivy. She’s asking the person on the other end of the line “not to listen to that idiot,” and so I’m trying that, too.

In the few quiet hours I have here alone, I can feel the pieces of my brain, fractured by months of working without proper childcare or privacy, begin to piece back together. Whole sentences are getting formed without anyone calling my name. I’m making slow progress and typing one-handed but it’s not for having an infant on my lap. My fingertips are dusted with nutritional yeast on popcorn that I don’t have to share.

I came here to write about a garden made of clippings from tender herbs. Back home, I’ve stripped the bottom leaves and made fresh snips in the stems of farmers’ market mint and basil. The stems are plunged into miniature mason jars and filled with water that catches the sunlight. With any luck, the stems will soon sprout tiny roots that I’ll plant in an illicit pot on the window ledge. There’s a jar of sun tea brewing there now; amber colored and growing darker.

“Alrighty. I’ll let you go,” says the chatty neighbor into her phone. I pack up my bag to head home for dinner. As I close the screen door behind me, I hear the sputter of a sprinkler turning on in someone else’s little rectangle. We’re all soaking our roots and hoping they will grow.

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  • Reply Megan June 29, 2020 at 5:33 pm

    So beautiful and brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for putting this out in the world.

    • Reply Crystel Hardin June 29, 2020 at 8:25 pm

      I just rooted basil from our CSA and planted it on our little apartment patio. Good luck with your roots abd for always inspiring me with your simple life of purpose.

  • Reply Kearstie Simmons June 29, 2020 at 5:53 pm

    This post made me happy. Thank you for your words <3

  • Reply Judith A Ross June 29, 2020 at 6:00 pm

    Husband made a pasta sauce last night loaded with fresh herbs from our own little herb garden. There’s nothing better — Bon appetit!

  • Reply Mari June 29, 2020 at 9:11 pm


  • Reply Alice June 30, 2020 at 5:33 am

    “In the few quiet hours I have here alone, I can feel the pieces of my brain fractured by months of working without proper childcare or privacy begin to piece back together.”

    I really loved this, it is truly a fracturing and heartening to hear your pieces are finding their way back.

    For what it’s worth your output has been beautiful during this time!

  • Reply Samantha June 30, 2020 at 7:39 am

    Love love love. Glad you found a little slice of peace and healing, your posts haven’t sounded like this in a long time. Thank you for sharing with us, in addition to all the other needed info you have been sharing lately.

  • Reply kimberly harper June 30, 2020 at 8:26 am

    Dear Erin,
    These words connected deeply to my own stretched spirit. I’ve been feeling like I’m watching life transpire between slits in my fingers, much like I watch a suspenseful movie. I don’t like unexpected happenings crossing the screen, or shaking up my real internal world. Your words helped me breathe deeply. Perhaps, soon, I can be brave enough to remove my hand from my face, and with fingers removed, focus clearly on the world around me. Thank you for your words.
    Blessings, Kimberly

  • Reply Shannon June 30, 2020 at 12:51 pm

    Your prose is so beautiful. I’ll be the first in line to buy your next book – the one that will be written when life and little humans allow you the space.

  • Reply Tara Rasmus June 30, 2020 at 1:34 pm

    Beautiful words. Solidarity from another working mom with a “fractured brain.” So glad you had some healing moments in that garden oasis. Isn’t it just such a luxury these days to have time and space to think, uninterrupted? I long for days with longer stretches of brain time. We’ll get there…eventually. xoxo

  • Reply Kate July 1, 2020 at 2:16 am

    This is so, so lovely.

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