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On Gardening

When you pull weeds, it is a lot easier to see.

STOP

Even on a quiet day, it is rare when music is not running through my mind. No need to stream music or the radio, it is always there.  Maybe it is that way for you, too. New tunes sometimes come by, but they never stay long. Most often it is something I heard long ago, or just yesterday.

This morning it was the music and lyric, “it starts when you’re always afraid, step out of line, the man come and take you away.”

In the minute it took me to find the song on YouTube, I was crushed by the realization that the lyrics apply today as well as they did in 1966.  Racism, misogyny, poverty, ignorance, and greed are as rampant now as then.  Did anything really change? Does it ever change? Or do generations just wear different clothes, hairstyles, grow old and die feeling satisfied that they made a difference when they didn’t?

The current times expose the fetid underside of the American Dream, of human nature. While it needs to be seen and hopefully engaged, the collective grief is breathtaking.

Political commentary is beyond me. But this has got to stop.

 

For What It’s Worth

There’s something happening here
What it is ain’t exactly clear
There’s a man with a gun over there
Telling me I got to beware

I think it’s time we stop, children, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down

There’s battle lines being drawn
Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong
Young people speaking their minds
Getting so much resistance from behind

I think it’s time we stop, hey, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down

What a field-day for the heat
A thousand people in the street
Singing songs and carrying signs
Mostly say, hooray for our side

It’s time we stop, hey, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down

Paranoia strikes deep
Into your life it will creep
It starts when you’re always afraid
You step out of line, the man come and take you away

We better stop, hey, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down
Stop, hey, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down
Stop, now, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down
Stop, children, what’s that sound
Everybody look what’s going down

Five to Eleven

The clock stopped.

At approximately 10:55 AM or PM, on some day in the last five months, the three AA batteries powering the old alarm clock gave up.  In about the same span, time stopped for more than 600,000 people globally who have, so far, perished at the receptors of an invisible viral invader.

I can replace the batteries. No one can replace the souls or salve the sorrow. Divine dictate does not drive pandemics. Germs do. That they outnumber us is a condition of residency on this planet.

Yet something stirs.  Though stilled, there remains enough power in the clock for its light when touched in the dark.  Something to that.

 

When Dogs Dream

A furry paw twitches, breath quickens, a tail flicks.  Dream-chasing rabbits in a game of hide and seek.

It’s quiet now.  The dreamer passed on to the Great Grassy Yard today.

The name was Bond.  James Bond.

Great shaggy head, those furry paws ran the Great Grassy Yard in this world until age took its toll.

Everyone thinks their dog is special—and they are right.  James brought energy to my family that had been missing forever—that is pretty heavy lifting for a dog.

Or a doge.  James was an AKC Champion Shiba Inu, contributing many puppies to the world in his years at stud.  And then he whirled into our lives, a pal to all with a driving interest in squishing squeak toys while rolling upon them, four paws in the air.

The man himself is no longer, but his soul lives on. He passed at home where he used to run, surrounded by flowers, butterflies, sky, trees, and the wind.

Of James, no truer words were ever spoke, “He has been a life force for friendly tolerance.” Few of any species can say the same.  I will miss you James.

Was it then?

Up the gentle green hill, mid-morning sun dapples through the leafy ring around this landscape. Pick up speed running down again, laughing, arms akimbo, making fluttering shadows in the sun.

What’s it all for?

Once many of us ran our own green slopes when young.  Half a century later, probably few of those young’uns do.  For me, time has collapsed, my future passed, and the timeless summer day comes again. If only for the exhilarating run past sun, shade, and flower on a peerless blue sky day.

Take note

Has anyone else noticed how similar the wail of an ambulance siren is to the keen of the banshee?

Electric medium, the mind.  When Marshall McLuhan said the “medium is the message,” he meant the carrier, not the mode of the message.  What, or more correctly, who is the carrier?  You, me, we, and them.  The background noise, the humanity of this planet.

Our flesh and chemistry, flickering substrate between heaven and earth, shadows against the wall, differing lives, intent, needs, joy, and despairs. Even socially distanced, we are a hive, like eventually finds like, online or off, the edges undulate, a sinuous dance snakes through time and space.

A fire that breathes. Inhale the future, exhale a life story. Billions of eyes peer out, taking in scenes that feed restless souls. What have your eyes seen? A sight seared into memory three decades ago, or the angle of light this afternoon? Sight or vision, outer or inner, each image adds to the primordial visual cortex that is human history.

Unlimited by distance, we share what we see, all that was, or ever is, ours to recollect.

When Gardeners Go Home

There are many type of gardens, most improve with age.  And sometimes age says more about the gardener than the garden.

For as long as I recall, my mother kept a fair-sized garden at the house where I grew up.  Only the second place she ever lived, her garden welcomed many varieties and the occasional native plant, long before native plants were popular in residential gardens.

It was not until my mother was into her 70’s that I learned she did not come to gardening on her own.  It was the chain-smoking, bottle-blonde older neighbor with an affinity for Yorkie dogs that introduced her to the hobby. The neighborhood was new then, mostly rancher homes with no landscaping save  for the barren hardscape of a construction zone.

Mother of two when she moved in, eventually two more children came along, and the garden began to take shape.  Phlox, lilies, ornamental shrubbery, scrub oak, columbine, and a host of perennials came and stayed for the duration. A few larger trees arrived over the years, an Austrian pine, Linden, Quaking aspen, Hawthorne, and Mountain Ash, several of which remain today.

My mother was reliably found in the garden, enriching the soil year after year with a cup or two of peat moss in each planting hole, dipped out of a colorfully painted tin cup that was old even when I was young.

The gardening styles of my mother and I are wholly different.  While my mother established and tended the mainstays of her garden for decades, I cultivate changeability, welcoming volunteers, being romanced by new introductions, stalking my garden with a trowel in one hand and unexpected entrant in the other, looking for the right spot–or sometimes any spot. Her garden was steady, mine forever shape-shifting.

My mother retired some time ago, her garden figuring prominently in each day after that.  She volunteered for years at the local botanical garden, and there is a bench there that bears her name. When I visited home, we walked and talked in the garden, discussing plants and their habits.  As any gardener knows, one of the secrets of a garden is its timelessness.  There is no before, or after, there is simply the face of the garden as it is now.

I visited again last August.  In her 90th year, my mother does not have a great deal of short term memory.  There had been talk of a move to assisted-living, as aging in place with assistance simply wasn’t enough anymore.

After I arrived, we chatted inside the house. I had the discomfiting feeling that my mother could not altogether place me. While I was used to reintroducing topics or people, this was something different.

As we spoke, I glanced out the picture window that takes in a terraced garden in the back of the house.  The garden, long home to a community of robust plantings, was three-quarters covered by an invasive grass, beautiful in the breeze, but entirely hiding the differentiated species that may yet be struggling there. Startled, I asked her about the grass.  She looked out unperturbed, saying only that it grew well there.

Though lovely, the grass is homogeneous, smothering wherever it grows, it has nothing to say and little to show.  A metaphor of the mind, the grass had overtaken the decades of detail of the life that tended it. The gardener is no longer in residence.

A few weeks later, my mother moved into a beautiful assisted living facility.  There are kind people, good meals, and interesting activities.  She adjusted well, with help, over time.  There is a sunny courtyard in which to walk and the garden that I thought she would miss does not come up in our telephone conversations.

COVID-19 is stalking the residents of assisted living and nursing facilities throughout this country.  Family visits curtailed, packages quarantined, employees tested for symptoms on each arrival. But like seeds of invasive grasses, the progenitors of COVID-19 are rarely seen, showing only after the virus has taken hold in a fragile human ecosystem. Like everyone around the world, we can only wait.

On my next visit, I will bring starts of some of the plants in her garden with me, and her garden will live on, far from its original setting. That is the way with gardens, even when the gardener goes home.

And Still the Peepers

On Walkabout this morning.

It rained overnight, the streets shine.  Worms stranded in the middle of the street, I rescue as many as I can.

Coming up on the corner, I hear them, the spring peepers.

In these parts, spring peepers are a small chorus frog that herald the arrival of spring.  This year, I heard them first a week ago last Thursday.  Theirs is the first song of the morning, followed by the solo of the 5 AM robin.  Not long after, a chorus of birdsong serenades in the day.

Nowadays, the streets are more quiet than the birds in the trees and the frogs in the bogs. Residents stay home, school buses are parked, waiting out the virus raging across the land.

Spring peepers are a sure thing when nothing else is.  I am grateful.

To be a Sunrise

The swirling earth under overcast night turns toward the sun.

Hues of pink orange ripple up the heavenly vault, revealing blue breaks in the sullen sky.

A flush of extraordinary color bathes all that is touched by the dawn.

Breathtakingly new and full of possibility, the everyday marvel lifts the eye and heart of any age.

The flush fades, a cloudy palette closes in.  Oh, but it was glorious.