I live a rather large life out of a rather small apartment, which translates to a home with not a single square foot wasted.
It's filled with a mix of tools and emptiness - to facilitate flow from one into the other. Projects, relationships, the world...home is my base camp for stepping out and into all of it.
The closet is brimming with potential for adventure: a cornucopia of footwear, clothing, and camping gear to enable dreams. The office is dusted with potential for creativity: an oak desk covered with a revolving cast of projects, a cedar chest with cameras and lenses tucked away, and rough maple lumber tidily leaned up into a corner next to hand tools that will give the wood a second life. The living room's potential is of a more spacious sort; its centrepiece is an ever-expanding pine bookshelf in lieu of a television alongside a smattering of seats waiting to be filled.
And then there's the balcony: a place of urban seasonality, furnished with tarp-covered bicycles hidden from the brunt of winter storms that give way to the tiny garden currently getting large in summer's strong light.
Admittedly, I have a green thumb and I'm happy to use it - a bonsai tree that I've cared for more than 15 years stands testament to both of these facts. Since moving into an apartment with a balcony, the indoor-plant-extravaganza has spilled out into a summer food garden.
This year, however, I've relinquished much of the gardening duties to my partner. She's already discovering some verdant colour under her fingernails, but inevitably plant mama needs to relinquish control to a babysitter at some point. With her out of town for a week, I stepped in to fill the role of primary plant caregiver. And as things oft tend to go when mom's away, things got...interesting.
I am breakfasting alone - or, am I? Out on the balcony, the plants around me are demanding sips of water for their meal alongside my granola.
The railing I lean on is supposed to be repainted tomorrow. Actually, it was slated to be repainted weeks ago - but as the wayward schedules of contractors tend to trend, the date keeps getting pushed back to another tomorrow.
Fine for me, but the growing tomatoes, cucumbers, and beans rely upon that railing's stability to bolster themselves against the wild wind on their concrete perch. It becomes a convection oven out here during the heat of the day and, in the midst of their growth spurts, leaves stretch wide to catch the sun and also even the slightest breeze.
The forecast for today has wholeheartedly promised no rain, but thunderheads rising up on the western horizon seem to paint them as liars. While we all futilely wait for the contractors, the thermometer rises to +36 degrees Celsius in the shade and relentless gusts push beyond 90 km/h.
A perfect storm forms.
Have you ever heard of the sport: single-handed prairie tent wrestling? Probably not...which I'll take as a sign that I ought to be better about its marketing.
Picture this: an open field next to a little lake that you wouldn't think capable of whitecaps having, you guessed it, whitecaps. The wave-like gesture flows from water to prairie grass, its undulations welcoming a Hiker to its edge for the night.
As Hiker stops to consider the best way to set up camp, he notices that simply standing upright requires a lean.
"Interesting," Hiker mutters to themselves and the wind.
sail tent, it catches the wind and Hiker leans harder to avoid liftoff. At this point, there's no getting the canvas back in the bag and so, with the simple tools of poles and stakes, it becomes a game of quick reactions where a single mis-stake means outsized setbacks. The stakes were high (sorry, I'm done) - and things were getting pretty tents (okay, now I'm really done).
Does any of this sound awfully specific? That's because I was Hiker.
And lo, single-handed prairie tent wrestling was born. It is quite the sport.
But back to my balcony.
The building shakes with the impact of a swirling blast of wind. Peeking out between the blinds (shuttered to keep the apartment slightly cooler than outside), the plants resemble a cohort of whacky-waving-inflatable-arm-flailing-tube-characters outside of a used car dealership. That is to say, they were anything but upright.
I flashback to my days as a single-handed prairie tent wrestler. Pinning things in the prairie gusts? I've done this before! I gather my wits and tools - sticks of bamboo and twine - and step out into my learned lean against the tempest to stay upright.
A gust bends a gangly tomato plant to touch the floor. I catch its arm before it snaps - anchoring a bamboo stake in a pot and tying a loop of twine to alleviate the strain from a particularly laden arm of fruit (or is it a vegetable?).
In the unrelenting wind, the green beans have tangled themselves upon themselves - akin to the state of a five-year-old's curly locks after a showerless weekend in the woods with dad. Knotted to their limits, the gusts continue threatening to destroy both their stems and my harvest hopes. With each, I carefully undo the delicate mess, one twist at a time.
And the cucumbers...oh the cucumbers. Their reaching arms flail in panic, desperately wrapping around their plant neighbours and pulling on them all at once in an almost audible please-save-me!
I catch their hands in the wind and swiftly unfurl my secret weapon: a bamboo trellis. Guiding the cucumber plant's curling tendrils to both trellis and safety, they latch on, firming up their grip.
The storm passes and, with a little water and a pep talk, everyone's mood lifts and we begin to look a little more lively. Miraculously only one laden arm on a tomato plant was lost. Well, that and my afternoon.
The contractors still have not arrived. I suppose that's how it goes in these little spaces amidst the gusts of summer.