Monday, April 22, 2013

What's New?

I had the good fortune to sit on my front porch yesterday afternoon and tell a friend why I allow some weeds in my garden, which weeds I shun and which I adore, what a front yard garden is good for (it's good for producing a gift economy among neighbors), what I would do if I owned this house, how I would transform the west side of the house, what I could do in the back and what I want to do in the back (chickens), and so on and so forth for a couple hours over a couple jars of wine, the sun about to slip behind the houses toward North street.  In short, a gratifying afternoon spent in good company in the place where I feel most confident and satisfied in this life in which I often furrow my brow or pinch that small patch of loose skin above my nose and between my two brown eyes.  A spring afternoon in New England can make anybody wonder why they ever considered moving to a sprawling city where eighteen million people live in what would have remained a desert had an engineer named Mulholland and a bunch of developers not figured out how drain a valley of its water, divert that water, and turn this desert into 21st century Los Angeles.  This is not to put Los Angeles down.  It is only to say that while on vacation there in March I kept looking for a house where I could replicate, approximately, what I already have here in Massachusetts, which is to say a porch with a garden abounding from it.  So here I am, presenting to the world wide web, more pictures of my garden and the neighborhood that surrounds it.  A part of me wants to copy a post from this time last year and pass it off as something new.  What difference would it make?  Who would know or care?  What has changed since this time last year?

What's new is one of those vexing questions that all of us get asked from time to time, especially when we're among acquaintances who care enough to ask, who don't have enough energy to compose an original question, or who ask the question because they know it almost always delivers the safe and predictable answer, Oh, not much really; how about you?  If you don't have growing children, or an aging pet, or a pregnant wife, or a fast-paced career, or a budding romance, or sick parents, or rambunctious and unpredictable neighbors, or one of the many other things that reliably throw life for a loop, then you can tell whomever it is that not much is new, that nothing noteworthy is happening at the moment, that your life is pretty much the same now as it was this time last year, and this can be a great way to conceal, sometimes even from yourself, what's really happening in your life and, even better, what's on your mind.  Nothing much.  How about you?  

I am re-reading Stan Crawford's book, A Garlic Testament, and a passage that jumped out at me the first time I read the book jumped out at me again today:

There is a kind of knowledge that can be obtained only by a long succession of small or even absentminded observations and which remains so private that you fail to see it for what it is, and so entangled is it in a habitual activity spread out over many years.   

At a party recently at Flying Object I got to tell a stranger what would happen to this garden—and how quickly it would happen—if I were ever to leave it, as I eventually must.    There are so many different chores that I must do to maintain and develop this garden, but the list of those chores has been so privately and silently developed over the years, I would be hard pressed to enumerate them, and the person listening would likely lose interest in one minute, which is exactly what happened the other night when I started talking about the wild yarrow that must be checked each year lest it take over the garden.  So yeah, not much at all is new.  Late April is always late April.  A small comfort to be sure.    

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