Monday, April 19, 2010
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.
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?