Gravel

[creative non-fiction]

This spring, I waited for the onions to sprout from the gravel. Watched for signs of green shoots poking up between the heaps piled against the house. As they sprouted one by one, I liberated their roots and brushed them free of sand and let their lesson seep in.

~

Late May, weeks before we married, I sowed a packet of green onion seeds in my patch of herbs. I shivered in the bluster, toed the weeds sprouting in the gravel. Though the chill clung, the garden could not wait. There were still a dozen tasks to accomplish before we united two homes into one.

There wasn’t an onion in sight when I asked you to leave three months later. It goes to show that you can’t trust the quality of what you think you’re getting. Maybe the problem is the expectation.

Years before I agreed to marriage, you insisted I order three yards of gravel. When the dump truck arrived, I asked the driver to wait before he dumped. You arrived, crossed your arms and told me, “Why don’t you trust me?” Said you knew best. You were a man, so I listened. But as the gravel poured out, I had my doubts. The job took less than one yard. The remainder became a mountain that blocked my driveway.

The next summer, I attempted to correct your miscalculation by spreading the extra gravel around new garden beds at the end of my driveway. You’d convinced me the six-inch layer would resist weeds. As I often did when I doubted you, I conceded. Hoped you knew better than me. Besides, there was little else I could do to conceal the blunder of having listened that first time.

One year later, your plan seemed a success. The garden beds flourished. The gravel staved off weeds. Of course, you’d known better than me! Plus, I firmly believe that everything works itself out in the end. I accepted your marriage proposal.

But by the time of our nuptials the next summer, the garden lacked promise. Blossom-end rot in the tomatoes, slugs in the beans. Moths in the kale. There were thunderstorms galore, and a violent hailstorm destroyed my beloved zucchini. And then, of course, there was maelstrom in the house. I no longer felt safe, so I asked you to leave.

The summer after we’d married, weeds took over the gravel, so I began excavations. I tucked some gravel behind the garage you’d convinced me to build. Used it to barricade the leaky foundation.

Two summers after our short stint as wife and husband, a few green onions sprouted in the slope of gravel piled against the house. At first, I assumed the chive had traveled. But there was no mistaking the pungent aroma of scallions once I uprooted them. They were an unexpected delight in my salad. Days later, while weeding the gravel, I laughed when I spotted a crop of green tails wagging between the dandelions.

I had scattered the scallions too soon for the oily black seeds to germinate. They needed warmth, patience, and timing, but I’d rushed them. They sniffed the chilly air, trusted their instincts, and refused to sprout.

The divorce papers came three years after you left. I signed and, determined to get rid of the evidence, I called my friends for support. They hauled away truckloads of weedy gravel. Neighbors loaded it up by the wheelbarrow. Some reminders of past miscalculations—like the mountain of gravel—take effort to remove. Others, like the onions, spring up out of nowhere.

~

These days, I linger as I shovel away the remnants of my misjudgements. I’m learning to trust my instincts as I watch for signs that forgotten kernels might be ready to germinate. To find joy when unexpected seeds take hold.

Rachel Laverdiere is a writer, potter, and instructor living on the Canadian prairies. She is a CNF editor at Barren Magazine and a regular contributor at Entropy Magazine. Rachel’s essays are published in journals such as The Common, CutBank, X-R-A-Y Literary, and Pithead Chapel. Her CNF was shortlisted for CutBank’s 2019 Big Sky, Small Prose Flash Contest, made the Wigleaf Top 50 Very Short Fictions 2020 and has been nominated for Best of the Net 2020. For more of Rachel’s writing or her writing program, visit www.rachellaverdiere.com.