Friday, May 27, 2011

Shifting Focus

I've long neglected this space, using it primarily when my head is chewing over something that it can't quite swallow. I still have plenty of that floating in my gray matter, but for now, I think I'd like to do as I've been doing on Facebook and some of my other online hang-outs: chart my garden.

I'll start with today, do a little retrospective (after all, gardening season started the second week of March when we planted the peppers seeds in the mudroom), and hopefully, within a week or two, catch up in the chronology.

With all the rain we've had this spring, we're in good shape compared to some of our country neighbors. The surrounding farmers have plowed and planted their fields late, and though we didn't get everything in as early as we'd like, we took advantage of the few sunny (or not sunny, but rainless) days. All that's left to go into the ground are peppers, a few more tomatoes, and the squash/cucumber patch. Pictures to follow.

Today's big news, though, is that for the first time since the year we got married (2005), we have a rose blooming. Our friend, Jamie, gave us a Golden Showers for our wedding, but it didn't make it through the winter of 2005/06. This year, for my graduation (MFA - University of Pittsburgh), our friend, Becky, gave me a Midas Touch hybrid tea rose. It's planted at the corner of the porch, south-facing, same place as the Golden Showers and the home last year of our most successful cucumber planting (picklers that, from four seeds, provided a shelf full of refrigerator pickles -- we're hoping for a larger crop with some new methods we're trying in the main garden).

Here's the Midas Touch, in various states from bud to bloom.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Happy Birthday, Ma

It's spring break, my last spring break as a student. Graduation is in two months. I will, at that time, have the degree of Master of Fine Arts conferred upon me. I came home with a boatload of work to do so that I can make it to graduation--a book to finish writing, a paper to plan for a feminist pedagogy class, a redesign of the remainder of the composition class I'm teaching.

I have other, nonacademic work to do, too. Seeds to start so that they'll be ready to plant when the ground warms and all danger of frost has passed (check). Tax forms to prepare (not yet). And a visit to my mother.

Today would have been Ma's 85th birthday. I checked the calendar more than a month ago, just as I did last year when she was still alive--to plan my visit to her. Last year, she was still alive, and I was recovering from surgery. I wasn't cleared to drive on her birthday, but Sage drove me. I was thinking earlier--what did I buy for her? And then I remembered. Books. I had stopped buying nightgowns and sweatsuits unless she specifically asked for them. Books, though, she enjoyed. When she was alone, when she could still be alone, she would perch her reading glasses on her nose (the same reading glasses she'd been wearing since the 1980s), settle into her chair, and read aloud. It kept her sharp, I told myself. Something to work her mind like the images scrolling by on the television couldn't. No way to passively read a book.

Today, I can drive, but I won't. The plan was to go and purchase an artificial flower arrangement and some accessories to make it into a birthday bouquet (something simple; something I could do in the car), go to the cemetery, which may or may not permit real flowers (I will check, but it would be silly to put them there today with more snow, more freezing weather on its way), and visit her there. Dad, too. He's there with her.

I haven't been there since the day she was buried. We've always said it that way in my family: so&so is buried in ________ Cemetery. Buried. Like treasure? Like a secret? Like a civilization and a way of life that may or may not be discovered in some future generation?

But I'm not going. I knew it as soon as my feet found the floor this morning. The pain that's been creeping into my "good" foot for days now, which may or may not be another manifestation of arthritis (which has already appeared in the ankle of that foot from where I broke it at 18; and on the instep, where I broke another bone right before Jade's first birthday; and is now throbbing at the heel, which I can't remember if I've ever injured, but it's possible). I knew it when I looked out the window and before I checked the weather report, that says more rain, which will turn to snow, and, don't you know, it's still winter. For a little while longer.

I knew it without words as the solid knot of guilt settled in my stomach. It's irrational guilt. Ma, and Dad, too--neither are there under the ground not far from the police barracks, just south of the interstate. Some symbol of them is interred there. Buried. We bury them and place a marker on top of the spot to anchor them to us, to say: They lived. Here lies a part of ourselves. Here, we can come to remember, to pay homage to our own existence. Without them, we would not be. But Ma, and Dad, too--they're not there.

As I make peace with my decision to stay at home, inside and out of the elements, to work and nurse my new pain, introduce it to all the other pains that will subsume it, rarely letting it have the spotlight of my conscious awareness, I reach for the old, pilled blue sweatshirt that somehow, though it's been washed several times since she gave it to me (She outgrew it--that's what she'd tell me, "Here, take this. I outgrew it."), still smells like her as I pull it down over my head. I could go today and visit the part of her that's buried and gone, or I could stay here, think of her, and visit with the part that still lives in me.

Happy Birthday, Ma. I have a feeling you'd get a real kick out of turning 85.

Till later...

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Problems So Large

For the past two days, I've been watching news coverage of the shootings in Arizona--the grave injuries of Congressional Representative Gabrielle Giffords and the injuries and deaths of others, including the death of a nine-year-old girl. I've discussed the 1st Amendment with my husband and children. I've read article after article about the shooter, his mental state, and his unclear, possibly nonsensical politics. For every claim about this tragedy, there's a counterclaim. Ultimately, the discourse about speech and the power of language has taken a turn, I pray, in the direction of reason, peace, sanity.

I pray a lot today. I've spent a long time learning to be happy, learning about living my life in a peaceful manner, in harmony with the Universe. When I look up at the world and hear the hate that so often speaks the loudest in our public rhetoric, the emphasis on the superficial and the material that tops our list of cultural priorities, the narrow-minded hubris that strives to dictate so many of our personal choices, from whom we can love and to what way we can or must worship God, I get discouraged.

I almost forget that change begins with the individual, and I'm the only individual I can change directly. In order to be hopeful about problems so large, I must first tend to those little ones--those that originate in me.

Till later...