grow: a zine

Seven months ago, I knelt in the damp soil of a weed-covered garden plot, fingers curled around a spade and a packet of seeds. I was about to begin my first garden, and I was excited and scared and had absolutely no idea what I was doing.

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I have always wanted to grow things but never really had to follow through with that desire: my mother is an incredible gardener, and she did all the hard work for me. While she bent for hours in the hot Ohio sun, methodically pulling weeds from the earth a handful at a time, I sat in the air-conditioned kitchen popping cherry tomatoes in my mouth and wondering when the raspberries would be ripe. My biggest contribution was “planting” a couple of lemon balm seedlings from our local nursery, watering them once a week, and grinding them up to make “tea” (aka fancy ice water). But I didn’t have to worry about those tomatoes wilting on the vine or the neighborhood rabbits leaving footprints through the lettuce–the garden was a place for me to visit, not to feel at home.

Now, though, things are different. Now I am twenty years old, and I am no longer living with my family, and this summer meant being on my own for the first time. Figuring out how to sustain and nourish myself the hard way, and having the bravery to try growing something for real. So for seven months (more or less), I have been working on and learning from and reveling in my garden: a twenty-square-foot patch of dirt full of worms, rocks, weeds, and seeds. And — eventually, miraculously — small green sprouts moving tentatively toward the sky.

 

I started a small journal in March to keep track of my progress. Somewhere along the way, it turned into more than simple notes and dates, and I started to incorporate things like poetry, recipes, and lovingly inept doodles. It was only a matter of time before the idea for my first zine was born.

zine (zēn) n. —
1. An inexpensively produced, self-published, underground publication
2. A noncommercial, often homemade or online publication usually devoted to specialized and often unconventional subject matter

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And wow, after several weeks of writing and erasing and pasting and copying, it’s here! It exists! This is a thing I made!

GROW is an exploration of my journey: not just the process itself, but the fears and hopes that went into it, the tools I used, the things I learned. It’s joyful and earnest, like the mornings I spent just watching the breeze ruffle the leaves of my kale plants; and it’s reflective and somber, too, because sometimes a deer jumps the fence and eats your snap peas and there’s nothing you can do but cry a little bit on the way back home.

But ultimately, I wanted this to be a celebration of the things I’ve done this summer and an acknowledgement of how hard it can sometimes be to take an active part in the interdependent web of life that’s all around us … and how rewarding that can be. So there’s words and pictures and musings on magic, and there are things to eat, and there are silly lists. Basically just a bunch of wholesome, thoughtful things that I like and that I hope other people will find interesting too.

This zine is kind of like my garden — it’s far from perfect, but it’s one of the most beautiful and most empowering things I’ve ever created, and the process, as well as the result, has certainly nourished my soul. So I’m proud of myself. And as the season comes to a close and the earth turns once more toward darkness and solitude, I will be enjoying my final harvest with gratitude – and dreaming of what seeds and words I’ll plant next year. 🌱

~

If you’d like to buy a copy of GROW and see this beautiful messy amazing thing in its entirety, you can contact me at arikoontzwords@gmail.com and I’ll make you a copy. Or you can stop by to tell me all about your own garden. Either way, I love you.

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