Julie Hammond

Two days after this day of supposed celebration, still feeling the hangover of too-loud sounds and too close friends, the complexity of wanting others but needing space, of boundaries and politeness, of still not knowing how to hold fast to self in the spark of another's chaos.

Finding refuge outside, hose watering can earth sky, trees above, and this careful tending of tender, this coaxing of life from dirt and light, this small plot and that is at once exactly its size and as big as the whole world (no, the head shakes, it is only as big as it is, and that is enough).

Inside, hungry for food, but desperate for space, for quiet, for actions without interruption of word or gaze, wanting simply to do, to complete without comment or question and so, first a retreat and then a rejection of your outstretched hand and then a slow burn pulsing through the chopping and chewing.

A walk with a neighbour, a former colleague, my mask pink and homemade from an old pair of pants, hers a black bandana, my partner suddenly home all the time after 30 years at work, hers suddenly living elsewhere after a dozen years of marriage, these lives and this time plodding on, speeding ahead.

I had never seen this plant before, and had it been another day, I would have taken a photo with my phone, uploaded the image to a community run database and tucked its name, common and scientific, into my back pocket where they would stay, a series of zeros and ones, until I thought of them again.

But the phone was sitting on the kitchen table, left in haste or maybe on purpose, and so I reached out to the plant, ran my fingers down its strange green leaves (or were they needles), leaned in to smell knowing full well my mask was in the way, and then gathered the bead-like seeds from its tips.

I don't think there will ever be a time when I touch a plant and fail to think of you, our hands in tufts of yellow grass or silver lamb's ear, our eyes trained on the same thing but even more than that our nerves, the tips of fingers and lips brushing impossible softness, reaching each other across species lines.

I think: maybe someday I will plant these seeds and then I will know what you are, who you are, how you are, you mystery.

I think: maybe someday the borders will open and we will walk together again, hand in hand or side by side, we will lay on blankets and stare up at the clouds stars moon ceiling, we will never know each other, we will be content, it will be enough.