Gardening in the Concrete City: It’s not just you; it’s me

Duane Gundrum
4 min readOct 31, 2023
Licensed from Adobe Stock

One day in the Spring, I sat in the garden and looked at a wilting plant that was supposed to be a thriving abundance of vegetables I had planted earlier in the season. But there was no life, just a drooping, dying plant that had been picked clean by aphids and predatory insects. My months of nurturing this garden amounted to a complete and dismal failure. On this day, I sat down next to this dying plant and pretty much gave up. Not just on gardening, but on pretty much everything.

It’s not just you. It’s me.

Those were her last words to me. Not good-bye, not a fight, and not anything of any substance. Just an apology and then she cut the string on the two cans we used to communicate between us.

You see, this garden was to be my refuge from a life that wasn’t going as I had planned. I had such high ideals and plans for myself that should have put me in a much different place than where I ended up. My bestselling novels didn’t amount to the selling of any books, my occupation had stalled and sort of retreated because my desires were loftier than my accomplishments, and the relationship I had cultivated with the girl of my dreams had failed, miserably. The only thing that could have made this moment worse was rain.

It’s not just you. It’s me.

And then it rained. And then it poured. And then it thundered and lightning’d all over the place, as if to not only remind me that sometimes life sucks, but that sometimes life sucks times a million. Then the storm destroyed what was left of my garden. And all metaphors for a sucky life just sort of laughed at me. And I sat in the rain and got drenched.

The garden was supposed to be my way to forget about it all. Things hadn’t been working out (see above), so I lived in this house that had a really nice area for a garden. There wasn’t one there before, so I thought what a cool idea it would be to expend all of my energy trying to breathe life into some plants. I went to the store, bought a bunch of vegetables I thought might be tasty to munch on one day, and I toiled the soil, or so they say, or at least I think that’s what farmers say. I mean, I had no experience in farming. None. I might have watched Little House on the Prairie once, but that was about as close as it came. And I didn’t really pay all that much attention to the farming on that show when I did watch it, so I didn’t really have a lot of usable experience here. But I was going to garden.

And garden I did.

I hoed and hoed and planted and planted and watered and talked to the plants, and then I waited. Meanwhile, I hoed some more and watered and talked and all that sort of stuff.

You see, I didn’t want to deal with my life. I fell into a depression that was just getting worse each day. The logical thing would have been to get back out there and start regaining back some of what I had lost, but I sort of gave up. All that I really had was my gardening. And I figured if that was all I could do, then that was all I was going to do.

But it never grew. The garden died almost as soon as it started to grow. It was like nature was waiting for it to sprout and then pounced on it almost immediately. It didn’t stand a chance.

I was never going to be a gardener.

During that storm, I sat in the rain and just let the world pound down on me. I figured it was doing what the universe wanted to do to me any way. At some point, I went back into the house, tossed the gardening stuff I had with me into the trash and then went to bed. That night, I figured I had nothing left worth working for, and probably nothing left worth living for. The storm had washed away anything worth continuing.

The next morning, I puttered around the kitchen for a bit and then wandered out into the backyard to see what damage the storm had done to my obliterated garden. Hopping through the defunct garden was a little brown bunny, sniffing away, looking for something to eat.

“You’re too late,” I said. “The storm already killed it.”

The bunny just stared at me for a second, probably wondering if I was a threat, and then it hopped away, never to be seen again.

It’s not just you. It’s me.

I went back into the house and made some breakfast for myself. Somehow, it didn’t seem as bad right then as it did the night before.

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Duane Gundrum

Author of Innocent Until Proven Guilty and 15 other novels. Writer, college professor and computer game designer.