“Common Living Dirt”

We were all out digging and clearing today.

I come from a family of Polish farmers on my mother’s side. (My father’s side of the family were more educated and tended to be white color workers in old Poland.)

I love digging in the dirt. It has to be in my genes. And that’s also probably why my son is now part owner of a herd of urban goats and just loves taking care of them.

And that’s why this poem by Marge Piercy is one of my favorites:

The Common Living Dirt
by Marge Piercy

The small ears prick on the bushes,
furry buds, shoots tender and pale.
The swamp maples blow scarlet.
Color teases the corner of the eye,
delicate gold, chartreuse, crimson,
mauve speckled, just dashed on.

The soil stretches naked. All winter
hidden under the down comforter of snow,
delicious now, rich in the hand
as chocolate cake: the fragrant busy
soil the worm passes through her gut
and the beetle swims in like a lake.

As I kneel to put the seeds in,
careful as stitching, I am in love.
You are the bed we all sleep on.
You are the food we eat, the food
we are, the food we will become.
We are walking trees rooted in you.

You can live thousands of years
undressing in the spring your black
body, your red body, your brown body
penetrated by the rain. Here
is the goddess unveiled,
the earth opening her strong thighs.

Yet you grow exhausted with bearing
too much, too soon, too often, just
as a woman wears through like an old rug.
We have contempt for what we spring
from. Dirt, we say, you’re dirt
as if we were not all your children.

We have lost the simplest gratitude.
We lack the knowledge we sowed ten
thousand years past, that you live
a goddess but mortal, that what we take
must be returned; that the poison we drop
In you will stunt our children’s growth.

Tending a plot of your flesh binds
me as nothing ever could to the seasons,
to the will of the plants, clamorous
in their green tenderness. What
calls louder than the cry of a field
of corn ready, or trees of ripe peaches?

I worship on my knees, laying
the seeds in you, that worship rooted
in need, in hunger, in kinship,
flesh of the planet with my own flesh,
a ritual of compost, a litany of manure.
My garden’s a chapel, but a meadow

gone wild in grass and flower
is a cathedral. How you seethe
with little quick ones, vole, field
mouse, shrew and mole in their thousands,
rabbit and woodchuck. In you rest
the jewels of the genes wrapped in seed.

Power warps because it involves joy
in domination; also because it means
forgetting how we too starve, break,
like a corn stalk in the wind, how we
die like the spinach of drought,
how what slays the vole slays us.

Because you can die of overwork, because
you can die of the fire that melts
rock, because you can die of the poison
that kills the beetle and the slug,
we must come again to worship you
on our knees, the common living dirt.

A Day of Memories

aweddingSix years ago today, my friend and once-husband died of lung cancer. This is the only existing photo of the day we eloped in 1962.

We were kind of a fire and ice mixture. Made some fascinating patterns and two great kids, but we were destined to destroy each other if we didn’t separate.

Our son published some of his writings, which are available on Kindle. In the early days, we were very competitive with each other regarding our writing/achievements. Back then, I kind of viewed us as an “F. Scott and Zelda” situation.

Only I didn’t jump into a fountain and wind up in a loony bin. I jumped out into the life I was destined to have.

We eventually were able to become good friends, and I was with him on his last day.

I often think about how much he would be enjoying the paths that our two kids have taken and the way his grandson is blossoming.

Change Happens

Today, in her blog Time Goes By, my blogger friend Ronni Bennett posted about “Making Friends in Old Age” that prompted me to leave her a comment, which I share here.

Until recently, I always considered myself an extrovert — never had any trouble meeting new people and making friends. I joined groups and often even facilitated them. I had no problem walking into a room where I knew no one and striking up a conversation with a stranger. But I’ve changed; life changed me, I guess. Bad knees keep me from doing the dancing I always loved to do, and I no longer like to drive at night.

After living with and taking care of my mother until she passed away, I moved in with my daughter and family, 90 miles from where I used to live. That was about five years ago. Even though I’ve joined some groups, I haven’t clicked with anyone as a friend, even though they and I have made some effort. And I have decided that it’s not a problem.

I thoroughly enjoy doing the things that I love to do and, while it would be nice to share my interests, in person, with some others, it’s no longer necessary the way it used to be. Of course, I have family right on the other side of my door if I feel lonely, and we spend as much time together as I want or need. I also periodically visit with a group of close women friends where I used to live, and we keep in touch online as well. And yes, over the years online I have made new “virtual” friends and also connected with old friends from my past lives.

I have gotten back to writing poetry — which is a solitary endeavor — and I play around with designing and making the kinds of knitwear that stores don’t sell and I like to wear. If Spring ever shows its lovely face, I will garden. I watch shows via Netflix that no one I know watches, like “Crossing Lines” and “Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries.”

It is said that “happiness is not having what you want; it’s wanting what you have.” At my college reunion, an old friend asked me if I am happy. What I told him was that I was content. I want what I have, so, I suppose, I am happy.

I am certainly happy that I have two poems published in this issue of “Mused.”

almost the best time of the year

The best time will be summer, when the vines are loaded with tomatoes and beans and peas and, hopefully, the couple of exotic edibles, the seeds of which I planted in March and the seedlings of which I planted today: peach/mango/melon and cucamelon.

With my bum knees precluding any dancing or even minor walking, gardening seems to be the best exercise for me, and I, along with the rest of the family worked up a good sweat today — they tilling and enriching the garden soil and planting some seeds; I tinkering with the little shade garden plots and tending my seedlings. The little orange birdhouse (upper right of photo, below) that my daughter made last year from scrap pieces of wood in the cellar, has just been taken over by a pair of Carolina Wrens.

The Northeast is a marvel-filled place to live this time of year.

the readied vegetable garden behind the bank of glorious spring blooms

the readied vegetable garden behind the bank of glorious spring blooms

basil, parsley, sage, dill, garlic scapes seem to be doing well; some tomato seedlings are iffy, but I haven't given up on them.

basil, parsley, sage, dill, garlic scapes seem to be doing well; some tomato seedlings are iffy, but I haven’t given up on them.

the little shade garden by my little porch is overrun with Creeping Jenny -- but that's just fine because I keep moving some to other parts of the yard that are bare

the little shade garden by my little porch is overrun with Creeping Jenny — but that’s just fine because I keep moving some to other parts of the yard that are bare

the prettiest part of the yard is always the Japanese maple and the Buddha statue

the prettiest part of the yard is always the Japanese maple and the Buddha statue

I took the photos with my new LG Optimus G Pro from AT&T. I figured I’d treat myself with the money I’m saving by not having to buy cat food and litter any more — and also not having the expense of dance/exercise classes because of my bum knees. One door closes, another door opens.

I never found my niche

I enjoy reading mystery novels. Even more if the main character is a female. Even more if the plot involves some kind of “headology” — that intriguing mish-mash of psychology and shamanism, magic and wishing. (Granny Weatherwax is what I consider to be the model for practicing headology, but I’ve posted about her before and that’s off the topic of this post.)

I am thinking about niches and headology (two rarely connected topics) because I just finished the novel Night Angel, which applies various kinds of headologies to the process solving a murder mystery that involves a group of former 1960 Haight-Ashbury roommates.

I never lived that hippie life except in occasional free-flowing fantasies that I knew would probably not be as satisfying if played out in reality. But that didn’t stop me from fantasizing.

In the 1960s, I was married with children and living in a rural suburbia; I believed that had I not been living the responsible life, I might have been on some Magical Mystery Tour of my own, taking the Electric Kool Aid Acid Test. But I never even had a puff of pot back then. (Oh wait, yes, once, when a cousin who was married to a prison guard gave me a joint to try. Never having even learned how to smoke a cigarette, it was a failed secret experiment for me.)

If housewifery was not my niche, neither was hippiedom. Decades went by without the feeling that I had finally found where I was supposed to be in the world. I simply made the best of wherever I found myself. I guess that I am still doing that.

I look back and see myself as sort of a wife, sort of a mother, sort of a poet, sort of an activist, sort of a bureaucrat, sort of a dancer …. so many sorts, but no real niche, no place of grounding.

Maybe I found this Night Angel novel intriguing because each character seemed to have his or her own consistent niche.

My late once-husband had a very definite niche: He was a writer. He once said to me that everything else was just sawdust. He lived to write. He had found his niche.

Alongside my new La-Z-boy recliner is a box with 700+ pages of a typewritten novel of his that our son is self-publishing for him posthumously. It will be available soon to the public.

I want to read it because he often wrote with a strong sense of the power of headology, and his female characters were always forces of nature. But at the moment there is something in me that is envious of his niche — resentful, even. His niche has manifested into legacies that will go on without him.

You need a niche to leave a legacy.

I never found my niche.

Unless it’s late night blogging.

on mysteries, miracles, and metaphors

This afternoon, as the kid from next door sat on our front steps playing Mine Craft on his iPod, my grandson stood nearby, tracking the flight of our resident red-tailed hawk. Suddenly the hawk loosed a feather, and my grandson watched as it caught on a tree branch, and then let go, and finally landed in his waiting hand. He ran into the house shouting that he caught a hawk’s feather, wanting to share this miracle with the world.

Two kids, roughly the same age. One is home schooled. Easy guess, which one.

So, you could say that my grandson, Lex, received a message from his totem animal. Such is the spirit mystery of the natural world.

While the rest of the family is planning and preparing their vegetable garden on the more fertile side of the property, I have commandeered the side of the yard where the pervasive roots of the ancient maple that was destroyed during the Snowpacalypse two winters ago make it impossible to till soil or grow anything. tree stump Poppies have already spouted in the main stump container, and my mini calla lilies that spent the winter in the cellar are generating buds under the soil of the other.

I emptied the shed of all of the big pots and have begun a kind of container garden that will include herbs, flowers, and all kinds of tomatoes. And garlic. Lots of garlic. The pots are lined up along the nearby fence, which gets sun all afternoon. secretgardenThe soil there is not great, but hostas and wild violets seem to be happy there. I planted three sunflower seedlings and some Creeping Jenny and have lined up the pots, some of which already contain herb and flower seedlings. It is not yet the configuration I want; I will have a better sense of the aesthetics as the bloomings emerge.

In a month or so, it will be fun to compare this photo with one that boasts a more colorful and thriving container garden. There will be some re-arranging and adding to. My projects, be they gardening or knitting or sewing always seem to be continuous ones until something out of my control puts an end to them. Sort of like everything in my life. Circles. Now, there’s a metaphor.

buddhaI’ve been looking for some kind of statuary around which to focus the container garden. For the moment, I’m using a cairn that I found (oddly enough) at Home Goods. We already have a Buddha in a little meditation spot in a shady part of the yard.

In the meanwhile, the family continues work on the addition to Lex’s “fort.” (Original structure is on the right of the addition.) It’s going to be a fun summer around here.
multifort

the best mother’s day present under $25

I’ll admit that I am writing this because there’s a contest at nerdwallet.com. I don’t know whether my suggestion falls under “service” or “purchase.” I would think both.

I can’t imagine any mother who would not just swoon at the thought of getting a chair massage. Whether you’re a young mom hauling around a baby or toddler, a typical mom keeping up with household chores while also (or not) holding down a job, or an empty nester still carrying around the weight of family cares, your shoulders and upper back can always use some TLC.

Even an enterprising offspring might have a little trouble tracking down a place to get his/her mom that 20 minutes of nirvana, but it can be done. Fitness centers, spas, and Senior Centers sometimes offer them. Sometimes massage therapist offices do. You have to call around. But it’s worth every minute and every dollar spent.

I am lucky. My neighbor, a massage therapist, does them in her home. I think I’ll give myself one for mother’s day.

the builders

fort all
Now they are adding another platform to Lex’s fort, where all the the neighborhood kids seem to like to hang out.
spring builder

Under the new platform will be the old three-seater swing that used to be in the front yard, but the big snow storm over a year ago collapsed the awning and damaged the frame. But it’s good enough for kids to swing in. I bought a new one for the front yard, where I like to spend warm lazy days.

This boy and his mom, they are always building — Lego structures, learning tools, curricula, benches, closets, costumes — using tools from computer programs to circular saws. They need to make things. I guess that they get that from me, although they are much better at it, and they follow through a lot better than I do. Someday, my grandson is going to make someone a great partner; he’s only ten but he already helps with cooking, cleaning, and building.

While they build, I plant seeds and tend seedlings. This year, everything is organic. The challenge for me will be the follow-through in finding the best place for it all in the garden. We are going to do suburban farming, with teepeed beans towering between the spirea, and garlic scapes trending around the gaillardia. And marigolds popping up everywhere.

Now, all we need is some warmer weather.

And I need my knees to calm down after I aggravated my osteoarthritis dancing NIA barefoot. My new recliner is arriving on Friday, though, and relaxing in that is sure going to speed up recovery.

I’ll rest while they keep building.