The first weekend after being sent to work from home during the COVID-19 quarantine, I woke up to questions: “Will my parents be okay? Is my job secure? Do I have enough food?”
It was a lot to grapple with before coffee. As I dumped the used grounds into the trash to make a fresh pot, the half bag of soil I had laying on the floor caught my eye. It gave me an idea.
Between the used coffee grounds, soil, eggshells, and plant seeds, I had everything I would need to start an indoor garden. Checking on the plants would break up my already-monotonous morning walk from my bed to my couch. And more importantly, instead of all those unanswerable questions, I could wake up asking, “What’s grown?”
To start, I cracked four eggs, poured the yolks into a bowl to make an omelet, and set the larger portion of the eggshell halves back into the carton. Then I filled the shells with soil and mixed in just a pinch of used coffee grounds.
My basket full of seeds was sitting by the door like a sad puppy waiting to go outside to the community garden where I normally go. I picked up the basket, opened seed packages and buried green onion seeds into one egg, lettuce seeds into another, and used the last two eggshells to plant basil seeds.
The sunny ledge of my windowsill seemed like the perfect home for the eggs. After misting the soil, I stood there watching the water slowly sink in. Each step of the process took me further away from the spiraling thoughts that started my morning. Where so much was unknown, gardening, even in eggshells, was reliable.
One day I got an email from my work. My department needed to have a meeting about upcoming changes. Everyone knew it would be a difficult call. Sure enough, when the call ended, my apartment felt noticeably quiet.
I walked to the windowsill to check on the little eggs. And that is when I spotted them. My first sprouts! The excitement of seeing tiny flecks of green piercing through the soil shocked the weight of that conversation right out of me — it may not have lasted long, but it put things back into perspective. Life goes on.
In the months that have followed, each of the plants in those eggs graduated to larger vessels. As they did, I stopped counting my days in terms of how long I had been stuck inside and started counting them in terms of “days until harvest.”
I grew a full head of lettuce, two pots of basil, and some still puny green onions. But the real thing I was cultivating was a sense of a future I could know and understand. That tastes especially sweet in times like these.
—Jessica Carreiro is a contributing writer for Los Angeles Magazine, Marie Claire Magazine and more. She is also a gardener and member of the College Area Community Garden in San Diego, which has been open each day for its members since 2013. Visit collegeareagarden.org.