The Little Jalapeño Plant That Could
Guideposts|November 2020
The Little Jalapeño Plant That Could
I hoped it was an answer for my anxiety

IT WAS OUR LAST CLASS BEFORE summer break. I was finishing up the first year of an MFA program in poetry, going to school while working full-time as a Guideposts editor. I was exhausted—and riddled with doubt. Was I good enough to be in the MFA program? As talented as my peers? I worried I wasn’t progressing as fast as everyone else. When a professor asked about our summer plans, I panicked. I didn’t want to appear idle and somehow undeserving of my spot in the program.

“Gardening,” I blurted out. Where did that come from? I knew nothing about plants!

My professor nodded and said, “What a good idea, Mari! Emily Dickinson loved gardening.”

Emily Dickinson had lived on a homestead in Amherst, Massachusetts, and studied botany as a child. I was in my late twenties, lived in a New York City apartment and had—I repeat—no gardening experience.


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November 2020