Better Homes and Gardens

From space you can see our growing thing, our temple surrounded by trees and snaking vines, green on the satellite picture, a bump of human life beneath. Whatever is cut grows back thick as pipes and car tires. We have learned not to cut, to let the apricot struggle toward the sun, the fig slide along the deck, the mulberry burrow inside our daughter’s window, oversweet fruit plucked from her bed in May if the freeze doesn’t come too late and scatter green pods to the hungry ground, sucked inside with a slurp of loamy soil.

If we bend over backward, we do not see our growing thing, trees in the gutters—once a tomato vine dangling to the porch swing, upside down like when we visited Epcot’s futuristic space-growing exhibit. The plants there grew without soil, were birthed in equal rows, inverted, sweet-smelling of the gentle earth. They were a space mystery, how they practiced to grow above the atmosphere, a place with no HOAs.

I joke to friends, if you don’t hear from us, the wisteria vine has grown over the door again and we are trapped inside. We laugh at the ridiculousness of this, this growing thing; how funny you are, they say, why would you plant a wisteria vine? Don’t you know better? For practical use, I have made baskets from the vines, woven ball ornaments, anchored the hammock. A winding trail to help us find the way out, like a glowing exit sign on a listing ship.

Green, creeping shadows and things on the walls expand in a forgotten haircut. The power washer is lukewarm and limp and only waters the fungus, damp and newly seething. The deck is slick with green. The Jerusalem artichokes and the elderberries curl under from lack of sun, deploying their root systems to push out the soil for others, infighting for nutrients, mycelia with growling teeth. Mine mine mine.

From above it looks peaceful, from the moon, from the Pleiades, waving shades of green things, the mark of a cultured life, potted plants and seasonal blooms. An outline where a house, a temple, a home must be, underneath the bump of life, the teeming rich growth of species and lettuce spores woven together into a framework of composted soil and root systems. We live here, sometimes, between our growing things and the coffee table, leaves curled around our toes, feeding us lemon balm and mountain mint when we can no longer stand. When we can no longer find an end to the humid, lush green.

Librarian, mother, and minor trickster, Janna Miller is published in SmokeLong Quarterly, Cheap Pop, Whale Road Review, Necessary Fiction, Best Microfiction 2023, and others. Her story collection, All Lovers Burn at the End of the World, is forthcoming from SLJ Editions in 2024. Generally, if the toaster blows up, it is not her fault.