we pulled up the garden in shirtsleeves this weekend, somewhere in the middle of multiple pumpkin pies. it was warm, crazy warm for Thanksgiving. after two days of hail, and winter jacket weather, it felt like Wonderland.

i ate the last peas of summer, warm green time-travellers hidden in withered, weathered shells. a few last tomatoes clung to the vines we ripped out: they ripen on our kitchen sill. the long and winding rope of the squash plant we tried to leave intact: its prickly, flowered length had just begun to yield. one tiny gourd, the only one of the season. that our benign neglect brings forth vegetables at all still amazes me, but this was not a banner year.

i almost missed the gourd entirely. Dave pointed it out: pear-shaped, green. we thought we might leave the little thing to grow a bit, yet. then a hasty tug.


it is on the windowsill, with the green tomatoes. it is too small to put out on the deck with the gourds and pumpkins we procured at a more successful grower’s this weekend: small as a chestnut, it would be gone in a gust of wind.

i do not know why i care. it’s a gourd. can anyone speak to the purpose of gourds? but it was there, and now it is here.

the small, failed things always get me.

i am all elbows these days. overwhelmed, gulping, i push out space for myself like a skater, gouging those who get too close. i feel cornered by time, by demands. i wing everybody close.

overwhelmed, i say, and the small voice comes out like a shout, an attack with expletives.

i want to sit down on the ice and draw a circle around myself, and say stop. let me catch my breath. let me watch and take it in, all this bounty, these things i should have been more thankful for today. please. let me stop.

sometimes i feel like a collection of small, failed things i do not know how to leave behind.

we make ourselves out of a thousand half-baked parts, cobbled out of context. some serve us well. some are woefully inadequate, and always will be.

they have histories, these things, invisible vines that tie us up, that choke us. and we protect them, elbows up, with the same strange tenderness as the small living things that do not reach their potential.

i failed at Thanksgiving this year.

yes, there were turkeys, two of them, and family and friends, and pie. an abundance. but abundance comes with work. with accommodation. with stress. and it is the last that dogs me: i wasn’t even responsible for either turkey, yet i found the sum total of it all too much. when we sat down to give thanks at the end of it all, i choked.

i wanted to say, i am thankful it’s mostly done. please do the goddam dishes. i didn’t. i *think* i said i was glad that everyone was there. i hope i did, because i was. i said something lame about the weather, too. but i felt like a small, failed thing by the time we made it to that table.

the math of stress that i learned in my youth – jobs to be done = exponential multiplication of pressure and panic until all to-dos are erased from equation – has hidden sums that i need to untangle. i do not know where to begin.

i understand them as a part of who i am, a part of the way the world is. and so the petty jobs add to petty jobs until the time available feels divided into shards. my elbows go up, to protect what space and time i can. overwhelmed, i squeak, and the mouse roars.

i do not want to be the sum of small, failed things, forever in their thrall.

but they are what i give thanks for, this morning after Thanksgiving.

because i may think i do not know where to begin, but they point the way. you cannot change in yourself what you cannot see.

i see the stress today, small and lumpy, kind of ugly. it hides in a tangle of late summer vines of historicity, never fully grown. whatever energy or purpose it was started for is stunted, now.

i look at it, and try to own how it grew. i tug, attempt to disentangle vine from vine.

this will be my winter gardening. a daily job. i want eventually to pluck these small, failed things, one by one, tenderly. i want to set them on my windowsill; reminders, but no longer part of the living organism.

until then, i have the gourd. i hope it lasts. i need to see it.

and in spring i will try again to grow something that thrives and feeds, and does not choke.