Monday, April 19, 2010

Never Finished

I felt so tired yesterday. And everything felt like a struggle. Have you ever had those days? Gravity pulls with overabundant enthusiasm and really, I wanted nothing more than to lay down somewhere and study the clouds or read.
Except for what I'm reading is so very disconcerting. It's just plain old disconcerting to be reading a book in a house about the house you're reading it in. Oh, not all of the action in How Clarissa Burden Learned To Fly takes place in the house, but enough of it does. And of course parts of the house as everything else in fiction, have been morphed and shaped, but some are exactly the same. The same. The same so that when there has been a morph, there is that moment of bump! wait! hold on! Not so! Oh- fiction. Disconcerting.
From the reviews I've read online, people love this book. "Transcendent" is the word I'm finding most frequently.
Well. I don't know. We could all use some transcending, I am sure, but my idea of transcendent is not everyone else's. Of that I AM sure.

Anyway, I struggled yesterday. Jessie was here and she studied from this perch on a porch or that as I went about my chores. Buster was in heaven. Not only did he have his man-god back, he had his girl-god back as well.

I gave the garden back over to Mr. Moon and I worked in the other parts of the yard, of which there is a never-ending need for tending. I repotted plants and weeded. I cut my finger on a piece of glass my trowel hit in the dirt. Every place in this yard must have been a dump pile at one time or another. There are bits of of glass and shards of pottery, whole bottles and rusting cans, pieces of plates, slivers of cups, the occasional farm implement- all waiting to be dug up, or not, as the case may be.
I washed and hung four loads of laundry. I made the breakfast. I made the dinner. I folded the laundry, I put it away. I shoveled, I weeded, I pulled stuff that made my arms break out.
I talked to Jessie about psychiatric nursing and about my days doing clinicals at Chattahoochee State Hospital. I told her about how scared we were at first, young nurses-in-training, when they locked those doors behind us, setting us free in the ward of the insane and how quickly we discovered that the insane are just like us and the care they get there (or got there, twenty-five years ago, at least) was so inadequate that there was really nothing we could have done to make anything worse and in some cases, for a day, at least, we made things better.
It was a day. It was a Sunday. It was hard for some reason.
And some days are like that.
As I weeded the fern bed with the camellias in it, Jessie said, "How do you keep this whole yard? It's a huge job."
And I gestured around me and said, "Well- I don't. Not really."
I'll never have the tidy English garden, the neat pathways and rows here. But I'm not sure that would be fitting in Lloyd. And that is one thing Connie May got right in her book- that sense of wildness of this part of Florida. When I was poking around the roots of the winter-slain rosemary on Saturday to see if any of it looked to be alive, a tiny snake slithered out across my shoe and curled up in front of me. It was probably a king snake or maybe a coral snake. I can never remember the correct saying to determine the difference.
"Black on yellow, kill a fellow, red on black, you're okay, Jack." Some variation on that but there are too many colors involved, too many ways to rearrange the words to trust my mind on it. I came in the house to look it up, to get my camera, but by the time I got back outside with the rhyme in mind, the camera in hand, he had slithered away to the border grass.
No. I cannot plant luscious stands of domestic-bred flowers and expect them to do here. I transplant ferns from the woods, am constantly digging up wildflowers and bringing them home, buying natives at the sales, at the nursery. And am constantly fighting the insane invasiveness of plants others have put in here. The nandina, the beautiful wisteria, the plants I do not even know the name of which probably seemed like a good idea when they came home from the nursery, labeled and small and contained in a pot with the word "native" on them. The cherry laurel comes up everywhere, the birds eat their berries and shit them out and they take root wherever they touch. Squirrels plant a pecan tree every time they hoard a nut. I pull, I tug, I dig, and at night I cannot sleep for the pain in my wrists, the numbness of my hands.

I don't know. I don't know why I do this. Why does Ms. Liola down the road care if her yard is raked free of leaves because she surely does. Sometimes I think we have no control over any of this stuff. I joke about the old southern lady yard-working gene, but I swear, it's in there. It's in there.

And I have it.

It's been a fierce spring. Look at the buds on this rose. It's an heirloom rose, and I planted it in my little kitchen bed four years ago. Or two. Who can remember this stuff? Seriously. Click on this picture to see the insane number of buds.

I found that little statue hiding behind it when I first went to clear this bed when we moved here. This is a yard where there are so many secrets, waiting to be dug up, to be revealed when untangled from strangling vines, from the dark black earth.

The Ashe Magnolia has another bloom opening.

I think it will only have the two this year. Mr. Moon accidentally broke off half of it when he moved a pot back outside for me a few weeks ago and so it now only has the one spindly trunk-branch. I think it will survive, even so, just as the Buckeye did two years ago when a storm took half of it.

You have to be tough to live in places like Lloyd. Well, unless you want to spend all your time inside your house with the air conditioning on, depending on your satellite TV for entertainment, the grocery store for all your food, but if you have the old southern lady yard-work gene, you just can't do that. And even on the days when you feel tired, when you struggle to move, you just keep doing it. Slowly, maybe. Perhaps you sit down and wonder if you can get back up times. But you do.

There is the Parlor Maple you bought at the plant sale with begs to go into the pot the kids gave you for Mother's Day last year.

So you mix potting soil and composted chicken shit and you line the bottom of the pot with broken pieces of old pots and maybe some oyster shells you have laying around and you set it all up and you slip the plant in- a plant you'd never heard of but one you realized you MUST have when you found it.
Parlor Maple.

And it's never done, the potting, the weeding, the raking, the trimming. Never. But you just go about it slowly and turn your hand to this or that, watching it evolve as slowly as the ears on a snake. As you work you see lizards and toads and snakes and you dig up bits of the past and sometimes you cut yourself on them. The past literally comes up out of the dirt to bite you.

You set plants in the dirt and you water them in and you say, "Here, I hope you live here quite happily," and sometimes they do.

There are no locks here to keep the insane contained. We don't know the difference between sane and insane here. We just trim it back when it gets too crazy. Sometimes we even dig it up and feed it to the chickens.

And that's what I did yesterday. And then I made a drink and cooked our supper and Jessie and Mr. Moon and I ate it and Mr. Moon washed the dishes and I was in bed by ten, asleep by ten-forty-five, awake at eleven, at midnight, at one....

And now I am up, ready to do it all again, but today Owen is coming and we'll kick some more bamboo. I can't wait to hear him laugh. We will feed the chickens and he'll laugh then too and perhaps I am planting some love for this place within him. I try to wash him off and return him to his mother in the condition in which she brought him, clean and rosy, but the dirt of Lloyd is under his fingernails and I'm sure he eats some of it too. It's inevitable. I want to take him for a walk and bring the camera to take a picture of the Man-Woman tree I always mean to photograph. Today. We'll do that today.

He'll eat, he'll sleep, he'll pee, perhaps he'll poop. It never ends. Not for humans, not for the ground, and especially not for humans who feel compelled to get on their knees on the ground.

Of which I am one. An old southern lady with the yard-work gene. Waiting on her grandson. Glad it's not done yet or even, maybe, anywhere close. Because, as Mr. Moon says, "When it's finished, you're finished."

If our work is never done, perhaps we will never die.


How do you tell the difference and what difference does it make?


  1. Red next to yella will kill a fella, red next to black is a friend of jack! Hope it was a friendly one, hope Monday is better than Sunday. Now back I go to finish reading your post!

  2. Hey Ms Moon,

    Top o the mornin to ya! I liked this post.

    May I say, that ever since Helen found that diamond ring wedged in the floorboards of the Panther room, I've wanted to pull those suckers up and see if there is other buried treasures there!! It would be so fun, and if there weren't, no harm done, just replace the boards! So intriguing. I'm thinking back then people didn't safety deposit boxes much.

    Hey, I wonder if we could get some FSU archeology interns to some and excavate our yards!! (well, portions anyway.) I'll be you guys have some stuff back there by the old barn that might be fascinating! I can't help it, I know this is making you cringe just picturing it, but I have a bit of the Indiana Jones in my blood!

    Jessie is so cute, great pic.

    When Harley and I were there the other day we roamed around quite a bit in the back area and only found a few bamboos! Where the hell are they all?? Also, we totally dug on that beautiful little tree on the way to the barn which is dropping sweet smelling little white flowers with some purple in the middle. Yummy.

    Too much caffeine today! Hope you learn to fly like the girl in the book. You're definitely living in the right house for it.
    xoxo pf

  3. I hope you never finish your yard. Mother Nature always has something to show us. Your rosebuds are amazing and I never heard of a parlor maple and had to look it up, it blooms like a hibuscus! I always yearn to find some treasure, a coin or arrowhead when I am gardening, so your yard would be magical for me to dig in. We have the treasure hunting gene and the gardening gene I guess. No matter how awful I feel, physically or mentally, a sunny day and some plants to rescue and move around make me feel better, even when the work is hard. I'm sore today from this weekend's rescue work - scads of dwarf yellow iris that smell divine languishing beneath pine trees that have tripled in size since I planted them, how did that happen? So I save plants and in the process save myself, and stay a little more sane, relatively speaking. Hope you take that picture of the tree to share with us.

  4. I am tired reading about all that work in your yard... And I don't even have to work in it. You must have green fingers as they say in Belgium. I kill plants, don't know how, but give me a plant and you seal its death date... I guess it is a good thing if you love to work in the garden, especially in Florida, where I think that greens grow without ever stopping. If you would hate gardening like I do, Lloyd would not be a good place to live I think...
    Love reading about the flowers and the blooms, and yes, it must be strange to read about a house you live in seen by someone else who lived in it...
    Interesting to learn that you were a psychiatric nurse... And yeah for the boy coming over!

  5. Sanity is relative.
    Years ago, I delivered a bunch of gym equipment to Chattahoochee and as I was leaving, inventory of tools showed a missing screwdriver. The guards searched the "friendly" helper and yep, he had it and was hoping, as the guard put it, "to stab his way out of here". He was an intelligent man, nice, but perhaps insane. I'd stab my way out of there too if it came down to it though.

    Then yesterday, amidst redoing a bathroom, mowing my neighbor's yard who's out of town, and trying to sort out a couple fundraiser details for BabyGirl's school I got a call for FREE PLANTS! Well of course I made time to dig up three roses, two hydrangeas, and a spirea.
    That's insane. But my garden would make you gush I imagine.

  6. We have similar ideas about the yard. My wife does a lot of the yard work with the flowers, and I like the vegetable garden. We have 7 acres here with most of it wooded. It is subtropical for the most part--hot and humid in the summer and not bad in the winter, fall and spring except for the gnats that eat us alive. I too awoke at 3 AM--unusual for me. A bad dream from some fried clams I guess.

  7. ah yeah, and at least we are not in a locked ward, right, and can get out in the sunshine and the dirt. I know just what you mean. Keep digging MM. Today is a new day.

  8. I have just one damn question. Does Jessie EVER take a bad picture?

    Love you all.


  9. I'm not sure I could do what you do -- all that physical work. It makes me feel weary (isn't weary a great word?) just reading about it. I know you love it, deep in your bones, but I wonder whether or not you can pick one day a week and NOT do it -- read, then, and write or do nothing at all. For a whole entire day.

  10. Ps, Jessie is adorable. Lucky Buster.
    And those roses!!!!!

  11. I need to dig in the keep myself sane. I have done diddly squat and I have pots needing to be filled, dead plants to replace but right now I have to tend to other things. So I am digging in spirit.

    I like the idea of treasure or mystery in your grounds. Who knows what is buried...though cutting yourself on glass doesn't sound good.

    I agree that if we finish everything in whatever we do in will be over for us. So I have many thoughts on projects...and lots to do!

    I can do without snakes however. The neighbors would think I was killed if I ever was to come across one even a foot a way!

  12. Did they tell y'all about the secret Chattahoochee graveyards?

  13. Jessie is beautiful. I love that you're sharing your professions (or previous professions, at least).
    Yet another gossamer band binding the two of you.

  14. As with EVERYTHING in life, if you can't tell the difference, it doesn't matter.

  15. Oh you are an inspiration Ms. Moon. Loved your words as usual, and I wish I had a little bit of your yard work skills. We always hire someone because more often than not me and the wife kill everything we plant. I imagine Owen's laugh is awesome. I love hearing Baby Shife's laugh as well. It makes my day to hear it. Have a great day.

  16. I am sorry for your tiredness and for the pains in your wrists, Ms. Moon. But what a lovely piece of land you have, with secrets and stories to tell. And you, the best storyteller.
    P.S. Jessie is so pretty!

  17. I, too, have the yard work gene. It came down on my mother's side, from Grandpa Buckner in Springfield, MO, who was a gardner with a compost pile way back in the 50's, so from the northenmost part of the south.

    Digging the earth and crumbling the soil between my bare fingers is a Spring ritual for me. It plays hell with the fingernails, but I have to touch it, mix it, tuck it around the plants with my hands. Grounding is good, in life as in electricity, a total necessity.

    You are such a good mother to your girls. They are beautiful and reflect that good mothering.

    Sanity/insanity is a very subjective judgement at the best of times and especially in this "through the looking glass" world in which we live.

    Dig plants, fold laundry -- to paraphrase an old buddhist saying. Hope you are having a lovely day with O-boy. Kisses...N2

  18. Snakes, eh? I took some pictures on Sunday (I'm still looking for the cable to connect the camera to the computer - lost it somewhere - very annoying) and I got spooked by an incy wincy spider. I think it was about an inch long, maybe, if it stretched. You are hardcore, you are.

  19. Mel- But you can as easily say "black next to yellow, kill a fellow," etc.

    Ms. Fleur- I have my doubts about the veracity of that finding-the-ring story. It makes no sense to me.
    Plus- did they ask the last people to live here if it was theirs? No. See what I'm saying?

    Mel- Many of us seem to share the same needs and drives. Human nature.

    Photocat- And some of us do not share the same ones. And that is okay. I wasn't a psychiatric nurse. I just did a rotation in nursing school.

    Magnum- NOT taking the time to dig up free plants would be crazy.

    Syd- I actually work in the garden a lot too but when Mr. Moon got back from the island yesterday, I turned it back over to him. Funny. He never works in the yard. Unless it's big trimming that needs doing.

    Bethany- And I spent this new day (older now) with Mr. Owen who is a treat of a growing thing himself.

    Ms. Bastard-Beloved- Not really. Good afternoon!

    Ellen- I have seen so many snakes I just have to not freak out. But they give me a good startle, I'll admit.

    Elizabeth- You mean, and not be sick? I could do that? Really? You think? I will ponder the idea. It sounds heavenly.

  20. DTG- No. That was not part of the tour.

    Nancy C- It is interesting to share like this. Funny, too.

    Daddy X- Too true.

    Mr. Shife- I wish I could hear that son of yours laugh. You have a good day, too!

    Angie M- There ARE a lot of stories here if you just stop to listen to them. And Jessie is a beautiful girl, isn't she?

    N2- Yes. Dig plants, fold laundry. It's what we do. It's what we need to do.

    Mwa- I have to be hardcore to garden here. Now find that camera cable!


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