From the dirt up

From the dirt up . . . what will become my organic garden

The blank page. It’s every writer’s worst nightmare, especially when the ideas aren’t flowing.

The brown dirt. It’s every green thumb’s most exciting adventure. Into what will they transform this desolate nothing?

My life is the dirt and the blank page, wrapped into one. I’m trying to build my palace, my garden, my everything, from the dirt up. Yet, nothing can come all at once.

The flower pot where I'm just beginning to grow lavendar flowers

So, I start small. A small pot here, to grow lavender flowers (lavender helps ward off plant-eating bugs, so you don’t have to use pesticides, by the way. Thanks again, Dave Owens!). A few pounds of compost from Moon Valley Nurseries, in preparation of tilling my plot of land. I’ll make my own compost, in time.

Nothing but weeds has ever grown from this land. I can’t say the same about my writing—thank God. And while my newly planted lavender flowers are germinating inside, outside awaits something very special.

A baby Palo Verde, Arizona’s state tree, in a pot. My boyfriend, Oscar, gave me this tree as a gift to plant outside my first house. For those of you who don’t know, I’m Jewish—and Jewish people love trees. We love trees so much, that in Israel, you can plant an entire forest in your family’s name, for $50,000.

I kid you not.

The Palo Verde tree Oscar gave me

Oscar doesn’t have that kind of money; neither do I. So instead, he began growing a Palo Verde for me, to be the first tree to plant in my backyard. This special tree recently became sick, and with Dave Owen’s infinite wisdom, I’ve slowly helped nurse this baby tree back to health.

He will become the first of many plants to dwell within my currently non-existent oasis. This blank page of dirt and dust will grow into something beautiful—and I’ll make it grow.

I’ll make it grow.

Peanuts and Watermelon

I once read that peanuts and watermelon are great companion plants. They help each other grow, even though they’re vastly different.

For God’s sake: one’s a tiny nut that’s so dry it cracks in half, and the other is a massive fruit overflowing with so much watery juice it drives your coworkers crazy when you suckle at it.

I read about these two unlikely friends in Dave Owen’s book, “Extreme Gardening: How to Grow Organic in the Hostile Desert.” For those of you who don’t live in Phoenix, Dave is considered the “Garden Guy,” a local expert on growing delicious food.

When I blurted out this great conversation-starter at work the next day—about peanuts and watermelon—a whole row of jaws dropped. Like loose hinges.

I realized that was because the mere seed of a thought that peanuts and watermelon would go together never crossed anyone’s mind. Yet somehow, nature shoved them into the same category, for something.

Kind of like life.

So that’s where this blog comes in. See, I’m a writer, who lately, can’t write. And I’ve recently taken upon myself a vast endeavor of unspeakable proportions. I, Shari Lopatin, ADHD-positive, organizationally challenged since pre-school, am going to grow my own food.

This is me, the little blonde-haired girl whose Barbies and books allotted only a slim pathway from her room’s threshold to her twin-sized bed piled with stuffed animals. This is the college-educated, professional woman who still wins awards for messiest desk at work, and prides herself on using her car’s trunk as a filing cabinet for her published writing clips.

Yes, I am going to take a dirt-filled backyard, which has never known the pleasure of landscaping, and create an oasis of food and flowers.

And I’m going to embark upon this great journey while in the midst of another crisis: I’ve become consumed by a life which has hijacked me of my loves and replaced them with the inevitable grown-up list of responsibilities. I’m not talking about the house I bought a year ago—and love. Nor am I talking about nurturing the amazingly romantic relationship I have with my boyfriend and love of my life, Oscar.

I’m talking about the monotonous repetition of work, paying bills, making dinner, cleaning up, getting enough sleep, working out. In the midst of it all, where’s me?

I’m a 28-year-old professional woman who began her career in writing by drafting poems about the garbage man at 4 years old, and writing short stories following the life of seven aliens all named after foods, at 7 years old. Somewhere between my 7th birthday, and my 27th birthday, that part of my brain fell silent.

This brings me back to my original point.

I have two items here: writing (peanuts), and growing a garden (watermelon). My hope is that, when fused, these two very unlikely activities will help me grow my life, my dreams, and my food.

And just like peanuts and watermelon help each other prosper, maybe my voyage toward creation will nurture the old me again—and thus, my writing.

Come, share the journey with me. I invite you to—no, I DARE you to.