Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Sometimes I need to be hit between the sun eyes.

There is an episode of Dr. Who (tenth Doctor, David Tennant), where alien-related mayhem is occurring in a school, and the doors are locked, imprisoning the kids. One of the supporting characters, Mickey, sits in a car with K9, the robot dog.

"If only we could find something to smash those glass doors," muses Mickey.

"We are in a car," intones K9.

"Yes, yes, but I need to find something to break down those doors. I wish I had some pipe, or..."

"We are in a car."

"Yes , K9, I know we're in a car. Now-- OH! WE'RE IN A CAR!"

For ages I've been trying to get a garden plot. Been on a waiting list for a plot in the local community garden for over three years. The nun who ran it retired -- a concept that blows my mind, actually -- and I'm not sure the list with my name has been passed on. I've tried container gardening, but the gangway out my back door gets too little sun for producing actual vegetables/fruits, although I do end up with a lush section of vegetable plants whose main crops are leaves and powdery mildew. So every year I pore through my Seeds of Change catalog like an adolescent boy with a greasy copy of Hustler, and collect seeds from random plants I encounter wherever I go. (These go into a jar unmarked, because I like surprises.) I confess I did smuggle seeds from some really delicious grapes purchased at a Hungarian farmer's market from two ancient women. I was sweating through Customs. (Have you ever tried to appear nonchalant to a contraband-sniffing Beagle? Beagles don't give a shit about eye contact or your jokey anecdote about Unicum truly tasting like ass.)

But I have no land. I'm all stocked up with nowhere to sow. I often think about having a garden, a nice spot in a community garden where people go to tend their plants and talk to one another and have a great sense of community.

Last weekend was Earth Day weekend. I'd originally planned to join a local group to clean up some vacant lots on a nearby block. If they hadn't planned to meet at 9am, I might actually have made good on that.

I decided instead to clean up the 6x5 patch of dirt at the end of my road. The corner of my street borders a busy road, one with two rows of traffic each way. Several years ago, two men dug it up and planted some things. Not enough, really, and weeds took over. Each year I see the evidence of random acts of planting kindness: sunflowers come up, ground cover appears, but it's never really been kept up, and it lapses back into weeds and debris. I feel almost physical pain when I see degraded and ruined soil, so one year I spread some of my worm compost in an attempt to amend the sad corner. Thing is, I didn't screen it, and the result were random tomato plants and a huge butternut squash bush that took over and spilled into the street.

This year, nothing. Some of the perennials planted have come up, but for the most part it's crabgrass and weeds.

So it was that I took to the plot, tearing up weeds, planting bulbs and flower seeds and picking up trash. As I said the plot is tiny, but it took a good few hours. People passed and stopped and chatted, and it was a good time. At one point, I saw an older man watching me.

"Do you like flowers?" I asked him.

He smiled. "No good English."

I stood and walked to him. "Flowers," I said, using my fingers to imitate something opening up.

"Yes!" he said. "Very nice."

I showed him the packet of giant sunflowers I'd planted, and indicated the ring around the post where I hoped they'd come up.

"In Arabic, we say 'Sun Eyes'" he said. How you water?"

"With buckets." I pointed to the lake at the end of the street. "I live down there by the water."

"You volunteer?"

"Yes, this is my project," I replied.

"Very nice."

"Where do you live?"

"There (pointing to a nearby street). "I am new."

His bus came and he got on it. We have many Iraqi refugees in the RP. I'm already scheming how to introduce him to an Iraqi friend of a friend.

Some of my neighbors stopped and we chatted for awhile. It's almost impossible to walk down my street without seeing someone you know and talking for at least 15 minutes. As we were talking (me from the ground), passersby stopped and chatted; many thanked me. One woman said, "How nice! I won't let my dog pee here."

"Gosh, thanks," I said. And as I sat in the sun with the traffic going by, and looked at the fresh dirt full of planted flower seeds and bulbs, and exchanged "hello"s with passing neighbors, it hit me.

I am in a freaking car.


karen said...

I want pictures, as things develop. Lots of pictures.

Especially of the car. Even if it is in your mind's eye. The car line ... well it has me confused. So I must have illustrations.

But you know what? I love what you bring to here to this blog. You are like a panacea for all those things I don't get, will never quite get to, dream of being.

I imagine you in your life, the people you meet up with, the adventures you embark upon, and I fling glitter upon you because from where I sit, your life is that cool. <3

Seeking Elevation said...

What a lovely post. A-freaking-men. Good on you both for the gardening (which is awesome) and for the taking responsibility (which may be even more awesome). Less bitching, more gardening--maybe I need a garden.

JC said...

Thanks, Gals. I keep telling myself that i'm responsible for the world I create around me. I sometimes get discouraged (see my most recent post), but it's nice to know that I can always bring my car with me wherever I go.

I will take photos - I want this corner to be a legacy for people to enjoy when I've moved on. I still have other seeds I plan to plant around the neighborhood. The Morning Glory patrol!

karen said...

And then I need you at my sad gardens. Honestly, if I didn't have things that reseeded themselves all would be lost. And barren.

And I know what you mean about having/losing hope. I know that one intimately. #closestpersonal

JC said...

I'm a big fan of planting something once and letting it take over. Know what my most successful garden is? A compost bin. I just throw my vegetables scraps (including seeds in, and voila. In Boston, we had two compost ins and would routinely harvest what we termed "compost squash."

The sunflowers are coming up! None of the bulbs, but I do see what look like seedling sprouts from the handfuls of randomly collected seeds I took from wildflowers in Wisconsin. People look at me curiously as I stop on the street corner and bend down to stare at the dirt.