The last time I did some serious gardening was with H1 back in the day. I was all of 22 whopping years old and farming a little half acre in the burbs with three formerly feral cats, our fancy purebred white German shepherd puppy, and a smelly brown mutt that I picked up offa the freeway shoulder. Gardening's how I learned to sit for long periods in a camp squat. I'd set off under the blazing sun in my bikini without a clue about which green shoots were weeds and which might be the sprouts we wanted. Grubs grossed me out. I remember sweating buckets, slapping sparrow-sized mosquitoes, and, later, watching helplessly through the kitchen window as first a freakishly windy thunderstorm and then Hurricane Alicia spun our pine trees like al dente spaghetti, laying low and drowning our corn and every shorter plant. I think we wound up salvaging a few white squash. H1 and I split up six months later. Just sayin’.
Gardening, as lots of you know, provides some pretty handy metaphors for living. Watching all my hours of profuse perspiration result in a few squash and a big mess to plow under was enough to satisfy my young green thumb for about 20-something years. Oh, I fell into growing violets for awhile, but there's no sweat, sunburn, or bugs that go with all those little pots. Of course, it took me many more years to get out of the habit of collecting and resurrecting half-dead dogs and cats, but they give so much more back to your heart than tomatoes and zucchini. To me, nurturing is nurturing, whether it's living things that have two feet, four paws, or are stuck in the ground.
And if there's one thing I know, it's that you gotta take care of something other than yourself to have a whole life.
But there are as many ways to nurture as there are creatures. And it can get damned confusing at times when different ideas are called to make magic in the dirt side by side.
The Editor and I, much to the chagrin of nuestros vecinos, are farming our plot in the barrio. We're the only WASP types for blocks, and the folks around here who've been quietly and dutifully maintaining their tidy second-generation American urban homesteads for 20 and 30 years are a bit... perplexed. At least, I hope that's the extent of their mindset as they watch us do weird things to our yard. Consternation, maybe?
And as expected, The Editor and I do things differently. I never cease being amazed at how he and I jell so well on some ways of being, but then cross paths at a roadbump elsewhere. But we're just like anyone else that way. The only thing you can do is make room for each other.Well, you could squash each other, too, but that's not very nice. Besides, I've tried. It doesn't work.
The first big difference between us: our internal clocks. He's a night owl, I'm a morning lark. That's no longer a point of contention -- we just do shift work. He farms under light of the moon and the awful blue-white buzz of the motion-sensored lamp on the vacant house next door. Many is the dawn when I awake to find new, oddly shaped mounds of dirt here and another curving pathway between the billowing grass there. I drag the doubled-up hose that The Ed hooked up for me out from the only water spigot that doesn't flow hot water and into the front where we've got a little heart-shaped bed going.
And we've taken each other's advice on things like which tool is best for which job, and we're pretty gung ho on the same kinds of plants that go into our dirt. And we are both in love with our compost. But we differ on the how-to.
In short, The Ed and I look at the process through different filters. My take is that he's more into manipulating the components than I am. My tendency has always been to lay back and watch things go wild. The compost is a good example: I've always just tossed compostables into my previous yards to watch what comes up, while Mr. Biologist likes using collection devices and particular tools to engage in regular methods by which he introduces additional components into the teeming goo.
There's nothing inherently wrong in either version, but we're at conflicting extremes. So the other day, I came up with a way of seeing that satisfies my urge to fix it (because it really ain't broken).
We both have the same goal: We want to nurture growing things. We like life, a lot. We want it to continue and flourish and replicate. The Editor likes facilitating all this flourishing by putting his hands in the mix; I like to imagine that left to their own devices, things will do what they need to do. We're both right. Neither one of us is wrong. But each of us could do with a little flexing of our nurturing muscles a bit more toward the middle.
Besides, as mentioned, we really love our compost.
So here we are in a Swamp City barrio, plugging our plot with volunteers and orphans and loaners from loved ones, scrapping our food into stinky tea to feed our growing charges, toiling in the earth both morning and night. I'm trying to figure out when it's okay to intervene and just how much tinkering is life-giving. I think The Ed's pondering the occasional stand-back-and-watch-mindfully approach now and then. And I hope the neighbors are cherishing our valuable lesson in patience.