As I write this, it’s Sunday, Dec 30, and this morning I bought baby chard plants at the farmers’ market. Then I bought seeds at the hardware store and a grow-lamp to assist with sprouting my own collard and kitty-grass starts. I’m nuts. Even though it’s California, there’s going to be a form of winter coming soon. I’m really late for planting a winter garden, but I’m going to try anyway. I need to get back in touch.
We moved here in July of 1999, and my first garden was the summer of 2000. I’ve scratched at the soil for eighteen years, and until recent years it’s been pure joy. Now, year after year of being gone on our long-haul touring at the most critical weeks has taken a toll. I still got sauce tomatoes and garlic this fall, but the peppers and eggplant were puny, the basil and chives died, and believe it or not I got about two viable zucchini from my vines. I wasn’t there for them, I wasn’t digging my fingers in the dirt regularly. They didn’t see my face, they didn’t hear my voice; I was a distant parent.
King Lear took everything we had, every minute, from early 2014 through July of 2017—three and a half years. Then it was done. What next? A solo show for me, developed through 2017, performed sporadically through 2018, now in limbo (although we intend to produce a quality DVD this coming year).
My land, my earth, my anchor became a semi-estranged partner, an iffy relationship grimed by a lot of guilt. Now I need to do a hard re-set, and the energy to do that requires rediscovery.
Through much of the first decade of 2000, we were part of several groups that used our abundant house and studio space for gatherings, intensive workshops, and over-the-top parties. We were part of a steady raucous stream of events and people, and that fed our souls. Time moved on, things changed, and there was less exuberant traffic. Then the cycle of rehearsing and touring new major projects clamped down on the faucet, and we have moved steadily into semi-recluse status.
For the fiction-writing, that’s not a bad thing. Our daily intensive focus is enlivened by the cats, but mostly we’re at our own work-stations. And the output has been remarkable, but unlike live performing, nobody applauds. These stories clamor to be told, and we love the creatures we midwife into being, but the daily grind of queries and submissions and endless rejection letters make the birth canal gritty.
So, back to basics. I have to kick butt to get myself outdoors, having contracted a serious case of entropy. I go to the gym six mornings a week, and I growl with delight at my refurbished muscles. Now I need to get my soul to the gym, and it’s a hard job. There is something rooted deep in my core, a psychic crabgrass, that kicks and screams against everything that will bring more life and color to my being.
The past may be prologue, but it doesn’t come with a roadmap. I’ve gone nine rounds against this bugger before and come up standing tall, but that was then, this is now, and I need to learn new tactics. Mama Gaia is my partner now, stronger than ever before, and I will listen to her coaching. Just hold on, dirt, I’m coming.
Just before we moved from Philly to Sebastopol in 1999, we did an interview-based radio series called “Weavers.” A Puerto Rican woman from the Philadelphia barrio, Iris Brown, told us something that is still echoing for me. She was working with neighborhood children to give them hope. This is what she said.
I couldn’t promise them a family. I couldn’t promise them an education. I couldn’t say, “Please stay in school, and after you finish high school, you go and get a trade, or you go to college.” So, what else was there for me to promise? In the spring, I planted a garden. Because gardens bring what they promise.
If I dig the soil, plant it, water it, it grows. My children I can promise nothing for certain. Not what happens tomorrow, in the school, in the street, in the headlines. But a garden. Yes, we will have flowers. We will have tomatoes and peppers and all the green. This I promise. What the seeds promise.