Monday, October 23, 2006

It Takes a Train to Laugh

to laugh, it takes a cake melting in the rain to cry. What the fuck is that supposed to mean? Heavy lyrics, I am beginning to suspect, may be synonymous with stupid lyrics. Stupid, yet pretentious. Ought that lead me to consider a different sort of title? Yes. I would, except this post is a wee bit purple. Almost papal. And overlong. Way too long. Turn back now.

Someone please invent a device which will permit the parent of a large and jowly baby to wash in the under-chin(s) region with a minimum of fuss and call it the Jowl Towl (tm). Remember where you got the name... give me money. I'm no engineer, but I'm imagining some kind of terry towel thong underwear, modified for civilian use.

Lately I have wondered why I blog (is that a verb?) at all, what is the big deal about blogs, why people discuss or pronounce upon them at all, as though this medium will bring us closer to one another, or save the world, or something. Like, Gloria Steinem said it, or Don van Massenhoven... someone with an air of unquestioned authority. Mo has tried to explain it to me, but I don't get it.

I can't deny I enjoy typing about my kids, Mo, the cats, or whatever brain farts squeal out in the course of the day. That anyone reads this stuff is humbling and gratifying. I enjoy reading about other people's stuff some of the time. I cannot question the fact that some really engaging people are out there blogging away. Still (and maybe this comes down to my dismal typing speed) I can't escape the feeling that when I am putting my stuff out here I am further away, at least for the time being, from those immediately around me. This creates tension between where I am and where I think I am supposed to be.

But enough with the chit chat, the Rolling Chunder Top 500 Most Inscrutable Lyrics, like, EVER! The topic of today's post is, in fact, a garden. Our garden.

The back portion of our little urban lot is now cleared of the end of this year's garden. Our garden faces south. It captures the full sun and while diminutive in stature it afforded me great pleasure this summer. Autumn is here and the garden is now little more than, well, dirt. The plants which remain are sunflowers, taller than a bus (not a big bus, but whatever. A cargo van, maybe. A Ford Taurus) and heavy with seeds, heads drooping in the sun, victim to love of the many small birds in the neighbourhood who flit in and out of them each day to our amusement and to the distraction of the cats and the predations of the occasional squirrel.

Just a couple weeks ago, as the season turned, tomato plants, planted late this year, drooped with tomatoes of numerous species, size, and degree of ripeness. The beans were drying on the stake, the last few unpicked pods fat with beans the size of a cat's brain (we checked). We had a few broccolis with cute little florets which I killed and boiled and ate with great satisfaction... there were other plants too, in our haphazard feast, but this is not a produce section. This is a small garden, and these are small things to be sure, but to me they sweeten my world considerably. I will attempt to explain.

I recall the garden of my youth, started by my mum with some fierce determination, and abandoned by my her after only a couple of years. It become a large unused portion of outer back yard, next to the piles of cedar rounds which one day were supposed to be transformed into some kind of cedar product of greater use than a large pile of cedar rounds (which is great, don't get me wrong, I love piles of cedar). None of us did anything to participate in or revive what was intended to be a "family project". This "garden", such as it was, represented the failure of my immediate family to work together, or to work at all. (And now, in an effort to sound even more pretentious:) Only weeds grew in our garden (see, what did I tell you?). I was serious about school and sports, so was my sister. Dad had to work (and tipple, & c.). Mom had to ferry us around and dodge my dad. Our yard was no place to be a vegetable, I assure you. They stayed well away.

Fast forward to the period in my life where I listened to Steve Hillage I lived in an apartment and fantasized about getting the earth under my nails. After living together in an apartment (and harboring this dirt fetish) for over a decade Mo (who comes from a long line of gardeners) and I were itching to start a garden of our own. It was one of the first things we did when we moved here, tearing up the sod in the back, tilling the soil, starting the seeds in those weird little peat pucks. That first summer was heaven - standing in the dirt, naked, eating tomatoes still warm from the sun, the seeds dripping slowly down my highly waxed... sorry, that's the septuagenarian German couple next door. I cannot, or so I tell myself in my Judy Garland moments, imagine going through a summer without the garden. This is not to say I am an avid gardener, an excellent gardener, or even a proficient gardener - I am not. But I have a garden where a number of plants grow and some grow to fruition. We eat from our garden (of course, that is the point of a vegetable garden. I suppose I am feeling a little maudlin. I just switched from Two Fat (One Dead) Ice Cream to frozen yogurt).

This past summer E ate the vegetables we grew, and by ate I mean, well, ate vegetables. We had the pleasure of picking corn of the stalk and boiling it but a few minutes later. We sucked the seeds out of tomatoes fresh from the vine, stinking of the sun, the soil, and salt. We have gobbled snap peas, purple beans, and green beans straight from the pods, sitting in the dirt, filthy and content. Together we hunted worms (on a strictly monitored catch and release program), watered the plants, and danced in the sprinkler. Between safaris we have eaten pears, mealy and sweet, from our young tree. While with her, gazing in her wide eyes, wondering at her preoccupation, I have been alive. I believe, perhaps fancifully, we have shared a discourse greater than the sum of the words spoken (Me: Don't kill that tomato! It's green! Her: More, daddy!). It was, like, heavy. Like the song with the crying train, or the melting cakes and the rain, or the poor lads who had lost their sanity in their, their... membranes.

The point I am attempting to make is I do not believe, by way of a soap-boxed harrumph of an introduction, that it takes a village or the internet is not going to make the world better. Blogs do not represent some hitherto undiscovered route towards honest discourse. In short, large pronouncements about the greatness of one form of communication, one form of human pursuit or another, or of some Bob Dylan lyric leave me feeling skeptical. Maybe those who pronounce are correct. Maybe a they know something I don't (which is likely). Perhaps they are true believers in the human endeavour (so long as the "people" fit into certain categories, are well educated, own computers, have time to do whatever it is the pronouncer is doing with his or her free time). If that is the case who am I to say otherwise?

But I will tell you this, and I harbour this sensation, lest I ever grow too old and too jaded and forget. When I am in my garden with my daughter, shelling peas, shucking corn, eating cherry tomatoes from the vine, I am at once in touch with humanity. For a brief moment I am out of my head and in thrall of the spiritual. It gets no better than that.

P-man out.


Blogger Crunchy Carpets said...

Lovely post....and very true.

We don't have a yard...we have a paved front area for bikes and a back patio and mud pit/tonka construction site.

But the site was fun all summer...the kids made roads and found bugs and worms and I hosed them down.

That was living.

Blog is fun....I love the people I have 'met'...but it is just a little part of it really....the nitty gritty stuff that gets under your nails.

12:47 p.m.  
Blogger Mad Hatter said...

I have whole theories on the rise of blog culture going hand in hand with the demise of real, concrete communities. I think I blogged about it once, even. My best response to the bloggy part of your post is this: we used to go out and drink with friends. Now we must listen to crib monitor static. There must be a social outlet and so we blog.

8:29 p.m.  
Blogger Crunchy Carpets said...

Mad nailed it.

Even now when we DO have friends over for get togethers I can't actually participate in the conversation because I am coralling kids or begging them to go to bed or threatening them with their lives if they don't pipe down.

Real human discourse???
What the hell is that???

9:25 p.m.  
Blogger Her Bad Mother said...

Ah, yes. About the spirituality inherent to dirt and play and shelling peas. Just that. YES.

And. Neck floss - you take one of those teeny little terry baby facecloth thingies that looks like a square of overfunctioning toilet paper and you slide one thin edge under the chin and pull, like floss. Repeat as necessary. Removes the neck crud some good.

9:19 a.m.  
Blogger nonlineargirl said...

Like you, p-man, I enjoy my time in the garden a lot, despite always feeling that I am not doing it justice. The first year in this house my then 4 year old neighbor helped me plant. I look forward to my daughter filling that role, rather than just demanding mee-toe! mee-toe! (of the cherry variety, which these days she just carries around rather than actually eating).

9:29 a.m.  

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