gardens


beans3

My hands remember
what mind does not: just so my
father planted beans.

As I’ve said elsewhere, I’ve long been fascinated by Green Men. I’ve only figured out recently that this may be because my own father was a Green Man.

It’s funny the things that set you to remembering.

The other day when I was in the cafeteria at work, I had a semi-meaningless conversation about pickles. That conversation sparked a memory so keen I had to write it down immediately.

My father planted a vast vegetable garden every year in the immense back yard of our rental property in Venice. He had no tolerance for flowers and, like as not, he’d pull them up if he needed more space for edibles.

Still, the garden he planted was a work of art: lovingly conditioned soil, weeks in churning and amending, row upon neat little row of carrot, onion, parsnip, red radish, bell pepper. Beyond those rows, beautifully rounded little mounds held cucumber, ringed round with carefully dug irrigation channels. The leaves of the cucumbers were hairy and pointy-edged, the stems thick and fuzzy, bobbing green in the summer breeze, yellow in the fall. The tomato plants on the other side of the cucumbers always started in orderly, well-staked rows, but by fall they danced in an entwined frenzy. Along the back fence, wire with a spiky top, banana squash climbed. Sometimes corn grew beside it.

Between the back fence crops and the tomatoes ran an arbor for string beans—a porous frame of wood and chicken wire during the fallow months, ten feet tall and perhaps twenty feet long. In the summer months, though, it became a green tunnel as the beans climbed up the sides and over the top. The sun shone liquid green through the leaves, and even in the hottest summer the earth beneath—near-black with fecundity and never dried completely during the growing season—felt cool to my bare feet. That soil made all things seem possible. I would wander up and down it daydreaming, getting a buzz from the green smell of the beans.

If ever there was a place my soul felt repose, it was there. I suspect my father felt the same way. He preferred spending time in his garden, in the green bean tunnel, to time with my mother and I. Perhaps that wasn’t so, just my perception, but it felt to me as if he couldn’t find a way to bridge the gap between that shining green light and the warmth of the hearth. After the day’s gardening, he seemed empty and at a loss. The demons that tormented him grew thicker in the air.

He’d nearly reached retirement age by the time I was born. When I was small, I adored helping him in the garden, just being with him. When I hit puberty, our worldviews had grown too divergent. At least two generations separated us, and only in the green space had we any hope of reaching across the decades. Even in puberty, the garden and that cool green tunnel seemed like a magic place. When the churning of my brain and growing body got to be too much, I’d return to it and wander up and down. I had this feeling, way down deep, that if I could just make it to the end of that tunnel, the true end, not the one I saw with my eyes, I’d be changed. Or maybe all my wishes would be granted. I never made it that far.

I’d see Dad in the tunnel, slowly walking up and down, lifting the bean pods tenderly in his hands to check their progress, seeing if they were ready for the ritual of the canning process. Mom and I were not allowed near the kitchen when the canning sacrament was underway. Mornings in late summer and early fall, I’d wake to the smell of green beans cooking, ready for the mason jars; or dill, alum, and vinegar boiling to turn fresh-picked cucumbers into the best pickles in the world. An astringent smell, but to me it held the promise of something delicious in the heart of winter.

I still see my father in that garden, and wonder what he found when he took the final walk to the end of that shining green tunnel. I wonder if his wishes came true?

There’s a quote from Vincent Van Gogh that reminds me of my father: “I am a burning hearth. People see the smoke, but no one comes to warm themselves.”

But there’s another quote from Albert Camus I like much better, and hope applies to Dad equally well: “In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.”

14 Jul
Life: it’s kind of like being nibbled at by ants.

15 Jul
Huh. Because I’m a member of Amazon Prime I just received a tote of free samples from Amazon Fresh, including a one cup coffee maker.

16 Jul
I ain’t greedy. A half a mill would do me nicely.

17 Jul
I love you, Jennifer Crusie, with great heaping <3 <3 <3 ‘s: http://www.arghink.com/2013/07/17/carpe-sharknado/ …

22 Jul
I bet making love to the Geico Made of Money guy would be kind of scratchy.

23 Jul
Medicare is planning to cut coverage to dialysis patients. Help protect access to dialysis. Tell Congress to stop Medicare cuts before they start. We need your help: http://bit.ly/DaVitaAdvocacy 

This disproportionately affects poor, sick people. Through no fault of her own my mother has kidney failure. She did everything right: ate healthy, kept active, took all her BP meds, but they could never control her high BP and eventually it destroyed her kidneys. Diabetes can do it, a severe e-coli infection can do it, many diseases can do it. This is not about people abusing their bodies. This is often just about bad luck, and the cost of the treatment is staggeringly high.

August 1 Addendum: This is basically a dispute between the drug manufacturer who charges exorbitant rates for anti-anemia drugs, the dialysis centers who make money off of kidney patients, and Medicare.  My mother’s kidney doctor says she does not need the drug that they are fighting over at this point. So that’s good news for us personally, but still potentially devastating news for other old, poor sick people. It makes me ashamed to be an American, frankly.

25 Jul
Worry and guilt are useless emotions. You have to learn to let them go. Fear is sometimes a life saver, but you’ve got to let that go, too.

26 Jul
The world is an illusion that we have to take very, very seriously.

28 Jul
The kind of day where I’m too tired to even get up for aspirin for a headache. Mom, cat and I dozing in our chairs watching the Dodgers. Bottom of the 9th and a 0-0 score.

29 Jul
Whenever I run into a really fussy person I want to tell them, “You haven’t got time for that. Whatever you do, you’re still going to die.”

29 Jul
Middle Class Problems: I hate it when the foliage is at the apex of its summer glory and the gardener decides to trim it back to a stub.

29 Jul
The Universe is so strange. Help comes from the most unexpected places.

31 Jul
Protip: When someone is frustrated and angry, don’t laugh at them. You won’t josh them out of it you’ll just make them more pissed. My glasses are held together with a paper clip. Hilarious this morning. Last night at the end of a trying evening, not so much.

31 Jul
There seems to be an unpleasant theme in anagrams of my name from the anagram server: Aha Moments Plop, Shaman Melt Poop, Anal Moppet Mosh, Ample Phat Moons. Hmmm. I had to stop reading after awhile. Aha Moments Plop is a lot how my creative process happens, so I have a certain fondness for it. The anagram server found zero anagrams for PJ Thompson so I had to use my Real Girl Name.

1 Aug
Hilarious and horrifying—one star reviews on Amazon of classic novels: http://bit.ly/15yoRxn 

2 Aug
CBS and Time Warner are both corporate Aholes for holding their customers hostage in their negotiations. Get off the dime, jerks

4 Aug
Channel 9 carries some of the Dodger games here in L.A. They are owned by CBS. They are blacked out. You know what’s really fun? Explaining to a 92-year-old with short term memory problems why she can’t watch her Dodgers (ad nauseam).

6 Aug
The Onion: I’m Only Really Happy When I’m Writing… http://onion.com/1b9ruYs 

8 Aug
Who needs bifocals?

bifocals photo smallishbifocals_zpsdf01c6c8.jpg

14 Aug
My latest Etsy admired whimsy: http://www.etsy.com/shop/Mindielee 

16 Aug
It’s amazing how busy some peoples’ desks suddenly get when there’s shitwork to be done.

It is done, and I am not merely dead, but really most sincerely dead.

17 Aug
I just spent $180 at the pet store. Not all of it was bird seed but a big chunk was. This is part of my expensive trip to the pet store. http://twitpic.com/d8w98j 

In my defense, I waited until it was 20% off. Min had a great time with it and can once again look out a favored window.

19 Aug
I want a house the color of orange sherbet with white trim: a Creamsicle house. I’ve been obsessing about it for weeks now. A neighbor down the block has burnt orange with mustard trim. Not as horrible as you’d imagine. Alas, my dreams of color will not be realized soon. No money and a “roommate” who does not appreciate…beauty.

23 Aug
I’ve decided, all things considered, that I am not going to knuckle under to blackmail. Do your worst, sir. I will persevere. Ultimatums are really not a way to persuade anyone to do what you want them to.

23 Aug
Seems like morning show hosts are irritating nerds all around the world.

 The Russian Army Choir doing Adele’s “Skyfall” on a Moscow morning show: http://avc.lu/16WvFbm 

23 Aug
Middle Class Problems: The cleaning woman threw out a brand new unopened large container of cottage cheese with a pull date in October.

26 Aug
A nice summer evening gathering around the fire pit last night. We had enough food for 25 people. Five were in attendance. I wanted to be sure no one left hungry. They’ll probably be dining on the leftovers for days. I know we will.

28 Aug
The irritating neighbor just turned scary. If you don’t hear from me for a week, assume the worst. My mother did the one unforgivable thing, apparently. She told the truth as she sees it. He couldn’t handle the truth. Why is it that bigots never recognize that they are bigots? Or maybe they do, they just don’t want to be called out on it. I shall be providing my mother’s transportation to and from dialysis from now on.

29 Aug
omg I must still be a writer. I just got a gobsmacking idea for my next novel. That I have neither time nor energy to write. I guess I’ll let it simmer for an ice age or two. I’m wondering if you can still be a writer without a consistent or predictable time to do your writing.

30 Aug
I’ve got so much to do today: reading, sitting on my butt, dictating into the phone and seeing what VOS comes up with. Oh wait, I meant VRS. Or as VRS wrote, “to be our ass.” (Don’t ask me.)

30 Aug
Mom: “How do I tell if WiFi is on?”
Me: “I’ve told you 100 times.”
Mom: “But I can’t remember the other 99 times.”

30 Aug
Watching an H2 mockumentary on the zombie apocalypse and Mom is all “Wuh?”

31 Aug
It’s too hot for lap time so Min is making do with pillow and towel. http://twitpic.com/dbbhle   She has such a tough life.

31 Aug
Only 1.8 days left on my initial backup to a cloud service. Damn, I’ve got a lot of junk on my Mac. My internet service is decent most times but not for stuff like this—and there’s a lot of junk on my harddrive. This is a one time upload, though.

2 Sep
Backup complete at 78262 files, 21.6 GB.

2 Sep
Min had a pretty good day yesterday: people tuna for dinner, fresh catnip on her carpeted kitty stairs, steak for table scraps, lots of lap time…All in honor of her 12th birthday. Live long and prosper, baby girl.

All is right with the world. http://twitpic.com/dbonfg 

3 Sep
The news was not all bad at the doctor’s office. In fact, there’s a glimmer of hope. I may be able to have knee surgery after, all but there are too many variables yet to be determined.

6 Sep
My hair’s been on fire all week at work, and I’ve also been dealing with Los Angeles County Department of Social Services. OMG. So ready for the weekend.

But Putting It Out There works in mysterious and unexpected ways. I end the week in more hope then I began it. Praise the Universe!

18 Jan
My new favorite search that got someone to my website: “my father planted a garden.”

18 Jan
With my bad knees I often catch glimpses of myself in windows walking like a zombie. *sigh* At least I don’t hold my arms out and go, “Urrrr.”

25 Jan 
Mom busted out of rehab Tuesday morning, January 22. We’ve been on the lamb since—except for the time spent sleeping in our own beds and loving it.

28 Jan 
A really good day followed by a really bad morning and the necessity of having to leave her alone to come to work. Life doesn’t fuck around.

I know very well she’s fragile, but hearing a medical professional describe her that way makes it more real.

29 Jan 
I do not recommend sleeping in a recliner overnight unless you’re deathly ill and half-unconscious. I got out of the chair, but all day long my body was saying, “No, you didn’t.”

4 Feb  
With Mom in the ER around 4:30 a.m. with breathing difficulties, but we were back home again by 9:30. Probably dialysis related issues. Dialysis this afternoon should take care of it.

6 Feb 
Praise my neighbor! He’s agreed to take Mom to dialysis Mondays and Wednesdays, saving me leaving work midday to drive a 50 mile loop. Hallowed be his name!

7 Feb
Remember that scene from the remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers where the guy falls asleep next to his dog? http://huff.to/Y8NWsh 

7 Feb
Back in the ER with Mom (more breathing difficulties). And home again four hours later. Consensus: Mom needs oxygen at home. Tomorrow I will check with her primary care doctor about ordering some.

7 Feb
So they delivered the pre-assembled folding wheelchair in a box that looked like it contained a large screen TV. I pushed it up against the small garage door to get it out of the way of the front steps so I could get Mom in the house after dialysis. Between then and when I came back out some a**wipe came along and opened the box to see if it was worth stealing (I guess). Apparently, it wasn’t. The brazenness: only six feet from the front door.

12 Feb

I’ve released a breath I didn’t know I was holding: Mom’s oxygen has arrived.

13 Feb

Prius in front of me: “I am a green car. Are you?” Me: “You are an asshat. Any more questions?”

They’re everywhere here in LA. I always think of that South Park episode and picture the drivers holding wine glasses to their behinds.

13 Feb

I’m smart, but sometimes I haven’t got the sense of an addlepated cow.

13 Feb

9 p.m. and I finally get to sit down for the night. Bed soon. What a party girl.

14 Feb

Children’s author Terry Deary wants to close all libraries (and not ironically): http://bit.ly/12LPQpK  You, sir, are a privileged douche.

I wouldn’t have had any books to read as a child if it wasn’t for libraries. My parents didn’t have the money for them. Besides, libraries also do movies and CD lending, also part of the “entertainment industry” Mr. Deary feels is being negatively impacted by “free books.”

Random quote of the day:

 

“In gardens, beauty is a by-product.  The main business is sex and death.”

—Sam Llewellyn, The Sea Garden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Disclaimer:  The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Siegfried and Roy, Leonard Maltin, or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.