In the Wee Hours

Pulling up dead cucumber vines in my September garden, I realize my main crop this year is a forest of sunflowers. In years past, I’ve verged at times into the maniacal side of gardening. This year, however…. this year, as we all know, has simply been this year.

My oldest wanders out to the garden, her head bent to one side, braiding her hair. She’s begun training on the local volunteer ambulance crew, and tonight is her first overnight shift. She tells me she’s going to stay up all night. Why would I sleep?

My garden soil is dry, hot from the sun beneath my bare feet. The fall greens — kale and Brussels sprouts — are interspersed with brown stalks of dill, seeds drying.

Hidden in my forest of flowers, I remember when I was eighteen and left home. One of the first things I did was stay up all night, wandering around outside in the dark with a friend until the sun came up. It was the first time I realized how long a single night can stretch.

She straightens, and I admire her braids. She’s all grown up, heading out into the world to do her own thing and make her own way. Still, I remember her at four in her pink overalls, determined not to sleep then, either. She hurries away, and I stand there, with my dirty hands, watching.

We need enormous pockets, pockets big enough for our families and our friends, and even the people who aren’t on our lists, people we’ve never met but still want to protect. We need pockets for boroughs and for cities, a pocket that could hold the universe.” 

— Jonathan Safran Foer