It is late, late at night, and I am scooching a large crock of asparagus spears, in a brine, up onto the high shelf where I let things ferment, and I am thinking about my asparagus plants. How many spears, again, can I expect per plant? I wonder. I have 13 plants, I've counted, from about 40 seeds planted last year, and in my galvanized bucket of seeds is treasure: 50 purple passion asparagus seeds. I inhale the freshly salty harbinger of sour pickles to come. I've combined peppercorns, allspice berries, hot pepper flakes, nutmeg, shoots of green garlic, and nearly six bunches of blanched asparagus from the farmer's market (counting the dollars that will go unspent in years to come as I slice precious purple spears from my back yard, from under the sour cherry tree, and beside my front porch, everywhere we've nestled in a plant) in a brine straight from Wild Fermentation. Sandor Ellix Katz hadn't given me guidance on the asparagus, I had to find it from Marisa and Eric. I am wondering if I will need to buy many, many more pickling crocks, I wonder how much fresh asparagus my family will eat next spring, will we still need to pick up a few bunches at the farmer's market?
It thuds, weighs me down, the realization: next spring, in the late night of post-bedtime, I will be eating asparagus, alone.
It has been a few weeks since Jonathan got the email, he was being attached to a unit, mobilization date in July. July. It took me several days to understand he was headed to Iraq, not Afghanistan, as we had thought at first. It will take me more than a year, a lifetime, to understand that he won't be here this fall. This winter. He will not shovel snow. He will not taste the celeriac whose seeds I encourage every day; he will not dig up the potatoes whose muddy rose-shaped leaves delight me so by sprouting all over my potato hill; he will not help me defend the cauliflower plants from ant attacks. He will not eat pie from our own blueberry bushes and cherry trees; he will not watch with me as the purple tips of asparagus emerge next spring. It will be fall, winter maybe, of a whole different year, he will leave the day after Everett turns seven and will not return until he's fully eight.
I do not understand. I do not understand at all. Though our union has rarely been blind bliss, though I have lived with him far from me, before, I do not understand this, this whole-headed severance of our family, our unit that is only just now learning to stand on shakey foal-legs, that has been struggling up only to fall, hooves akimbo, to much confusion and occasional delight. Though I have carefully attended to the military pay tables, adding up acronyms and dollar figures, basic pay, BAH, BAS, family separation allowance, hazardous duty pay, imminent danger pay, I know how much we will be making and what bills we will pay off, I do not know what this means. Hazardous imminent separation, family, housing, basic basic basic. The words jumble, the numbers collide, July, 2010, $250, 15, E-5, what was five, now four.
As I can do, I make plans, I consider the work, kitty litter, preschool dropoff, an infinity of dishes shelved, eaten from, washed, shelved once more, because I do not think I can do it any other way I gently begin convincing Everett to be schooled at home, I wonder if I ever want to leave my house again.
I do not know what to fear, and so I fear this: not being at home, not being able to get home, to be in our place, even with him a half-globe away. And when I am out, with the boys, I start to panic in strange places, a playground, a sidewalk, I cannot be out here alone, I hurry, hurry, hurry home, I feed him asparagus and green garlic and eggs from our chickens, I try not to count the days on the seed packets, 70 is too many, these jalapenos will not feed him, this spinach, this okra, alone, alone.
Jonathan's deployment has finally been officially set to May, 2010; it has been delayed three times, each time, set out a little more than two months away (although as of this writing, it's three months distant). He has eaten tomatoes, and corn, and jalapenos from our garden; he has enjoyed many pints of tomato sauce; he may eat the first of the asparagus, but it appears he will not return home until fall 2011.