One of the things that gave me a tremendous amount of joy last year was taking part in my local community garden. The whole thing was quite happenstance — I joined the waiting list in early 2020, but I didn’t hear anything about it until I received a phone call out of the blue at the end of May last year. There was a garden plot available, they said, and did I want it? Oh, and I had only 2 hours to make a decision, after which they would call the next person on the list.

The next 2 hours, as my former coworkers can attest, were frantic. I knew nothing about gardening. I had no idea how big the garden plot was. I had barely any tools. Was it a good idea for me to juggle this among all my other responsibilities? Could I share the plot with someone else? My mother said no. My aunt, who lives a short drive away, also declined. Maybe I could rope in the wife of my high school friend who lives only a 5-minute walk away? (Reader, I actually did! She’s super awesome. We worked on it the whole summer together and soon we’re going to look at seed catalogues for the upcoming season.)

Despite the logistical hurdles, I said yes! And so, a few days later, with all the paperwork signed and a partner in gardening crime, I set to work!

First, I persuaded my mother and aunt to help me clean up the plot. There was a large patch of lettuce amid all the weeds, plus some dill and onions sprinkled throughout.

Then, for the next few weeks, it was a steady routine of watering everything by hand every other day. My garden partner went to a nursery and bought scads of seedlings to plant. I don’t think I can remember them all, but there were strawberries, green onions, carrots, kale, marigolds, cucumbers, sunflowers, basil, lemon balm, and sage, among other things.

In the first weeks after taking over the plot, the lettuce grew so profusely that we couldn’t eat it all before it bolted.

Taking the produce home and cooking with it was intensely satisfying. It felt like I was the Barefoot Contessa — though, as Mr. BooksandTea likes to note, I was actually wearing socks most of the time.

More than that, though, it was the sense that I was actually contributing to something. I met my fellow gardeners and learned their names. We traded produce from our different with each other. People gave me free zucchinis out of the goodness of their hearts. I harvested extra produce and set it aside for delivery to the local food bank.

This was a pleasant but stark contrast from 2020. Months after the pandemic set in, novelty of working from home wore off. It was easy to sit inside 24/7 and spend hours playing Animal Crossing and Hades or catching up on DS9.

But last year, because of the garden, I had a reason to go out. In the mornings, I’d put on some janky shorts or yoga pants, walk to the garden plot with tools in hand, do some watering and weeding, then walk back home, shower, and start work. It felt nice carrying home bags of cucumbers, dill, tomatoes, and dirty spades.