Breathing In the Garden

By: Claudia Ricci, Ph.D. 


Leah is done. Finished meditating. Writing now, she describes her breathing:

“Placing my bare hands

on my bare chest

I rest them there

and pull in a

lung full of air

and push it



through the body

my arms

and chest

and elbows

and hands

and legs and

knees and

feet and toes!

I fill my head too

yes eyes






She practices breathing. And then she prays:

“Please let me stay mindful of the LIVING MOMENTS I inhabit. PLEASE MAY I STAY IN MY BODY BREATHING this way all day long.”

After a few more minutes of breathing, Leah puts on her old slippers, and still in her blue bathrobe, she carries Poco out to the front yard. So many cloudy days in a row are so hard, this COVID isolation is stressful for her, like everybody else. Still, she sets to work yanking dead stalks away from the irises, those irises that her grandfather, Angelo Ricci, once grew in his garden.

She moves slowly through the yard and gathers handfuls of damp black leaves and brittle stalks, and that makes her think about death, but the bright green shoots pushing through the earth pull her back into the life of the new plants.

Inside, she does what she loves doing so much these days: typing English sentences into the Google translator and then writing down the Italian. She is writing her new novel this way.

She types:

“I need warmth. Warm earth. I need seeds. I need to keep breathing. I need to grow something that I can touch with my fingers. I need to slide my fingers through the soil.”

“Ho bisogno di terra calda. Ho bisogno de semi. Devo continuare a respirare. Ho bisogno di coltivare qualcosa che posso toccare con le dita. Devo far scorrere le dita nel terreno.”

She stands up now and dictates out loud:

“I miss my granddaughter and grandson so much. I need to feel them in my arms and against my lips. AND I CAN’T DO THAT FOR WHO KNOWS HOW LONG ONLY GOD KNOWS!”

“Mi mancano cosí tanto mia nipote e mio nipote. Ho bisogno di sentirli tra mie braccia e contro le mie labbra. E NON POSSO FARLO PER CHISSÁ PER QUANTO TEMPO SOLO DIO LO SA!”


For the first time, Leah tries to write the Italian without the translator.

“Qui lo sa?”

 “Who knows?”

Leah inhales, she is trembling. She takes her fingers off the keyboard and feels the warm breath slide into her chest. She walks over to Poco’s chair and takes the 6-year old dog up into her arms and puts her face into the dog’s hair. She lets Poco rest there against her chest.

Leah is no different than the rest of the COVID world, a world where people are thoroughly isolated from their loved ones.

She repeats the breathing exercise.

And then she types:

“I need to grow something that I can touch with my fingers.”

“Ho bisogno di coltivare qualcosa che posso toccare con le dita.”

Her grandfather, Angelo Ricci, had a bountiful vegetable and flower garden, and so did her Dad. But she and her husband have not planted vegetables for many years.

She stops here. She will go online and buy some seeds.

Ordinarily, she will say that she needs her husband’s help to plant a garden. But this time, maybe she will have to figure it out herself.

She hits the print button. It’s time for yoga.


Bio: Claudia Ricci, Ph.D.


claudia ricci Ph.D. Monthly Contributor at Two Drops of Ink Marilyn l davisClaudia Ricci, Ph.D., was a staff writer for The Wall Street Journal and a prize-winning reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times, where one of her projects was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.

Her novels include:

  • Dreaming Maples, published in 2002, and nominated for a Pushcart Prize
  • Seeing Red, January 2011
  • Sister Mysteries, July 2018

Her short fiction has appeared in numerous literary magazines nationwide.

Ricci spent 15 years teaching English and journalism at the University at Albany and was a visiting professor for one year at Georgetown University.

To order her novels, visit her website at

Two Drops of Ink posts



  1. Hi Claudia – just realized my comment from a few days ago disappeared into the ethernet. Weather here is crazy: yesterday was sunny and the breeze was warm, a sure sign of summer days being around the corner, last night was our first thunderstorm with heavy rain, and today we got some nasty hail. SO glad I procrastinated on transplanting seedlings into the garden (and afraid to go see how my tomatoes are doing)! Hope you’re past the hail and into sunny Spring…

  2. Hi Claudia, weather in rural Portugal has been a bit all over the place. We had snow the first week of April for 24h, and then a mixture of rain and sunshine. Temperatures are creeping up though, so my seedlings are just about ready to spend a transition night in the shed before getting transplated into the vegetable garden. I have to say, I am quite ready for warm weather 🙂

    • Hi Shahnaz, Snow in April doesn’t sound like much fun. Glad you had a little sunshine. It must be fun to see your seedlings come up! Good luck with your garden! Best, Claudia

  3. “Please let me stay mindful of the LIVING MOMENTS I inhabit. PLEASE MAY I STAY IN MY BODY BREATHING this way all day long.”
    This prayer is beautiful and alive and feels like a rush of April air coming into my own body.
    Thank you for Leah and how she sees decay and new life all in the same mysterious moment.
    I love the Italian!
    May you soon feel the heft of your grandchildren in your arms.

  4. Beautiful piece. I have to say, one of the silver linings of this mess is that – I hope – more people will plant herbs and vegetables (whether in pots in their kitchen or balcony, or giving up a patch of grass to turn it into a plot of magic), and learn to bake their own bread. Also, Irises (unsure what the plural is) are gorgeous, and one of my favorite flowers – especially the purple ones.

    • Hi Shahnaz, yes it’s important that we plant! It’s hard to think about it today though because it keeps HAILING OUT! How is the weather at your place?

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