I’ve just had an ecstatic honeymoon reunion with dirt. More to the point, the dirt in our garden. The last few months should normally have had spans of weeding, tilling, all the stuff that’s done during what passes for winter in NorCal. But there was Lear, and rain (insert happy gratitude dance here), and the often less-than-happy state of my lower back. I had begun to worry about my future with my dirty friends.
I don’t know what today’s magic has been, but I am immensely grateful. I put in two steady hours of vigorous work and didn’t feel that I was courting disaster. I had the good sense to hop into the hot tub immediately afterward, so I have hopes that tomorrow will be a mobile day. The oddity of navigating my relationship with my core bones and connective tissues is that no real pattern has presented itself: I’m good, I’m crippled, I’m moving but unhappy — you name it, in no particular order.
But today, oh Hosannah, I dug down under last fall’s leaf pile, fetched forth buckets of good black humus, and worked it in the soil of my “salad bowl” (a half-barrel I devote to all the delightful varieties of young greens), and into the uphill raised bed that is my target for such things as chard and collards. Then I attacked the worm bin, and found a goodly layer of rich black moist bounty under the still-intact rainbows of recent chard stems and secret cells of half-crushed eggshells.
I do have garden tools — rakes, spades and hand-tools in abundance, and now that we indulged in a prefab shed, they can all be found when wanted. But my favorite tools are my hands, made bolder by the kind of gloves that protect without dulling feeling. The worms have left a lumpy black pudding in the bottom of their bin, and it would make sense for me to use a shovel and scrape up the required amount into the wheelbarrow, but it’s so much more fun to just spread my fingers wide and dig in.
It also means a more neighborly relationship to my fellow critters, the worms and beetles who labor in the dark. The term “cahooting” appeals to me: thank you, Caroline Casey (search for The Visionary Activist or coyotenetworknews). These are my co-conspirators, my allies. I like seeing and feeling and thanking them as I work.
I have no idea what this next day or next week will be like, but for today, thanks.
—From the Fool—
I have a brother who’s very rich. When we were little we both played a lot of jokes and tried to dress up the cat and put dead stuff under our sister’s pillow. But then I became a Fool and he went into business, where he probably gets more laughs than I do because he can tell a very dumb joke and his subordinates guffaw.
He manufactures educational diapers. Parents want their baby to have that extra edge, so he has the alphabet and stuff printed there so the baby can learn to read while it poops. He makes a ton of money.
We don’t have much in common, but sometimes I give him a call to help get our sister out of jail. He’s good that way, but I caught him at a bad time. “I made too much money,” he said.
Turned out that a couple of investments hit big, and he got so carried away he paid off all his debts: mortgage, back alimony, Lear jet, his son’s cocaine bill, a half dozen accounts where he took satisfaction in “making the assholes wait for their money.” He was totally debt-free and frozen stiff.
He tried to explain. “The economy runs on manufactured dissatisfaction, everybody knows that, goosing consumers to want more, more, more. But what is it that pushes us, the so-called one-percent? Anxiety! We’re riding high! I owe nobody nothing. I could sit back and relax and get fat.”
I tried to reassure him: “Hey, Bob, you’re already fat,” but he didn’t take it in a brotherly way. To him it was more than depressing: it was unAmerican. “How can we grow the economy and be Number One and terrorize the rest of the world unless we’re all scared shitless?” It’s a slippery slope, he feels, to pay off your debts and get your blood pressure down below 180. “What if everybody did it? We’d be like Mexico if they didn’t have drug lords.”
I couldn’t answer that, so I told him our sister’s bail was $200, and he said no problem. I would have asked how his wife was doing, but I couldn’t remember which one she was, so we left it at that. But I thought I heard him mumble something. “I think I’ll buy an elephant.” Or something like that.
Some weeks, writing my blog entry, I begin to feel intense empathy with journalists who, having nothing to say, are nevertheless required say it and in fact to drag it out to a specified number of column inches. That explains the vast expanse of news that’s not news but only speculation about what the news might be, like an obsessive nurse taking your temperature every five minutes, day and night. Or that supremely absurd question—to bereaved mothers, to families thrown onto the street, to the God-forsaken Job—expressed with a gentle brow-furrow of concern, “How does that make you feel?” Gotta fill that space.
The fact is, for me, nothing has been stored up over the week waiting for the floodgates to open. It’s only sitting at the keyboard that something I didn’t know was there—and maybe wasn’t—begins to flow. It’s not so much an expression of my emotional or intellectual life as something that constitutes that life. Writing the novel or editing the video of Lear or adding a pungent note on Facebook or talking with Elizabeth by the fireplace are other aspects of that. Perhaps it’s just a matter of coddling my monkey mind, or at least getting the monkey to submit to the yoke of subject and predicate. Though letting my monkey run loose through other people’s heads is pushing it, perhaps.
There are times, at the sea or in eating or in loving, when I can let the mind rest, let sensation flow in without purpose. Most of the time, though, I let the monkey frolic and goad him if he takes a breather. Sitting down to write the blog is a way of revving up the monkey to do his weekly dance.
Sometimes he doesn’t feel much like dancing.
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© Bishop & Fuller 2016