There is nothing left to hope for.
That, at least, is what the universe would have you believe. Ice caps are melting. Ocean levels are rising. Whole ecosystems are dying. The human population is reaching incalculable, irreversible levels.
The world is ending. The sky is falling. We’re all reaching our inevitable crescendo. This is it; we’re done for. The greatest hope we can muster is that next year might be better than this year.
And yet… just now, at 9pm, I did the dishes after making a salad for dinner. I used a knife to sweep a few vegetable scraps from the cutting board into the trash can.
Except for one.
I kept an avocado seed.
I kept it because of some small inkling, something I learned about in a recent documentary – that America’s obsession with avocados is wreaking havoc on our environment (avocado farms take an absurd amount of water to maintain) and threatening the safety of smaller communities (avocado cartels have sprung up in areas like Michoacán).
So, I hesitated before sweeping this small, brown pit into the trash.
Instead, I poured a glass of water up to the brim. I used three toothpicks to suspend my avocado pit like I was performing a fifth-grade science experiment. And I placed the contraption on my bedroom’s balcony, where it would get the most sunlight.
Truth be told, I’ve never been that interested in gardening. In fact, I used to tell boyfriends that they shouldn’t buy me flowers because I didn’t want to watch something slowly die for a week.
(Also, I’m great at parties!)
I’m sorry, it just seems like a lot of WORK for so little reward. Nurturing some small seed for the possibility (someday? maybe?) of a tiny blossom? …sounds depressing with a capital D.
But what can I say? I am the quintessential millennial; I love avocados. I live in Southern California. And, as everyone knows – I’m a Bleeding-Heart Liberal. If I know that people are suffering for my $1.50 accessory on eggs benedict, I must protest.
And anyway, how hard could it really be to start growing my own, rather than contributing to a corrupt industry by which we have unknowingly disenfranchised poor Mexican communities?
Ipso facto, there now sits a cute little fifth-grade science experiment on my balcony.
Encouraged by my spontaneous show of resourcefulness, I googled “how to grow avocados” and learned that a single avocado tree could take 13 years to bear fruit.
That isn’t a typo. Thirteen. Double-digits.
In an age where I could crave a burrito and have one delivered to my doorstep in less than an hour, I’m being asked to wait thirteen years. The lifetime of most child movie stars. Half the lifetime of one of Leonardo DiCaprio’s girlfriends. It is quite possible that I will be in my mid-40s when I can actually garnish my salad with something from this tree – by which point I’ll probably be disillusioned by such horticultural fantasies (as well as any fantasies of ending up with Leonardo DiCaprio).
13 years is a long time, especially for a decidedly non-gardener like me. 13 years! T-h-i-r-t-e-e-n y-e-a-r-s until this jabroni blooms.
…And yet? I don’t care.
By the same token… 13 years is approximately the same time commitment as owning a dog. (Just kidding, what? Lulu is going to live forever.)
13 years is nothing in the wide swath of the universe.
A mere blink of the Eternal Eye.
And I can understand, now, why gardening is such a powerful literary metaphor. It flies in the face of all conventional wisdom (this plant will die along with everything else), while simultaneously embracing it (but why not try anyway?).
This little avocado seed would’ve ended up in a landfill, if not for me. Can one ever some so close to divinity? You decide who lives and dies. Your hand alone distributes nourishment and punishment.
And in the wake of today’s almost entirely bleak future, there is something so deliciously stubborn (an intentional adverb usage, mind you) about deciding to grow an avocado tree out of nowhere, and committing to a 13-year adventure. I love the idea of laughing in the face of almost certain defeat. It’s like flipping a big, avocado-shaped bird to the universe. “You can’t beat me!” I shout into the void.
Not to mention, what a glorious rebellion, to ruthlessly believe in light despite everything. What a delirious (literal) uprising. To choose life over death. To choose meticulous dedication over the constant, unyielding tide of misery.
And growth. Choosing not only to live, but to thrive. To plant your feet and weather any number of storms and remain standing tall. The gardener is not only a creator of life, but its steadfast protector. The shepherd in the night, the warrior of the day, the very facilitator of progress.
I know that this avocado seed may never bear fruit. In fact, this almost seems like an inevitability. Perhaps the modern world is one too violent for my little egg-shaped beauty. Its ancestors may have been genetically modified to be plumper, or to ripen over a longer shelf life, which could curtail its opportunities in my little kitchen experiment. It may have been blasted with pesticides before it even blossomed into life, or tossed around by robotic harvesting machines, or manhandled by the grocery industry. It may have been rendered infertile by the fluorescent lighting of my local Vons.
I don’t know.
But (at the risk of trivializing a very real, very different experience) …isn’t that motherhood?
The acknowledgement that the world is a horrifically scary place, and fearlessly, relentlessly proceeding to bring life into it anyway? A bold defiance of the dismal statistics, the uncertain future – because damnit, you want to have something to look forward to? To give someone else a world to look forward to also?
And isn’t the permanent preservation of food, kinda like, the origin of our species? Part of an urgent territorial drive – the ability to feed your children, to provide food for the tribe?
And later, to quote Anne Lamott, didn’t it become a “competitive display mechanism, like having a prize bull, this greed for the best tomatoes and English tea roses”? Gardening is about proving that you have good taste, you can provide superior edible or aesthetic products, that you work hard and have good values. It is the very essence of our species – the quest for survival.
I don’t mean to say that my preservation of an avocado seed will have any impact on the world. Hell, for that matter, I barely expect it to have any impact even on my personal avocado intake.
But somehow, this small, rebellious act is in defiance of a future that seems bleaker every day, and a present that is everywhere eviscerating.
It is my tiny “screw you” to the universe. I will believe in a future 13 years from now, dag nabbit. I will hope for this modest kitchen experiment to graduate to a bowl, and then a pot, and then (god willing) perhaps someday to some actual land outside of my condo domain.
I refuse to believe that there is no hope.
I refuse to believe that the sky is falling.
I choose to put my faith, and my life, and my work into a belief that tomorrow can (and will! and must!) be better.
One seed at a time.