Sunday, April 7, 2013

Domesticity, Gardens, Old Resentments, Children, Men and Virginia Woolf

My book, well-worn
I am Mrs. Ramsey, except that I hear that she dies young and I'm trying to avoid that (except of course, for the way I am putting my liver to the test) except for of course, she's the one giving the praise and in that way I'm more like her poor husband, who always needs praise; and yes, I'll admit, I'm shamefully driven by praise. At least I've always said a good scratch behind the ears is all I need for a job well done, as if I were a just short-snoot pooch. And I have to wonder how that came to be. But now more recently praise seems kind of bereft and condescending. Good work, some one will say and I feel good, except that I don't, because of course it's good work. That's what I do.

I'm reading Virginia Woolf and I'm deep into the dinner scene in her 1927 To the Lighthouse and it reminds me of the silent warfare taking place at the table of many a staff meeting.

"There is a code of behaviour, she knew, whose seventh article (it may be) says that on occasions of this sort it behoves the woman, whatever her own occupation may be, to go to the help of the young man opposite so that he may expose and relieve the thigh bones, the ribs, of his vanity, of his urgent desire to assert himself; as indeed it is their duty, she reflected, in her old maidenly fairness, to help us, suppose the Tube were to burst into flames. Then, she thought, I should certainly expect Mr. Tansley to get me out. But how would it be, she thought, if neither of us did either of these things? So she sat there smiling."

The ribs and thigh bones of their vanity—a phrase brilliantly etched like a drawing sketched. Poor Mrs. Ramsey, stuck in her time, married with eight children, fretting over her greenhouse bill, tied to a vain man; yet purposefully executing her wiles and ways over all who come into her domain, artfully pairing those who should marry, gentling prodding, carefully coddling, grandly and gorgeously lording over her super table, while silently slaying and deconstructing the personality of each of her guests.

Would that I could write like Virginia Woolf, executing her prose with subterfuge and subversion, particularly when it comes to the hopeless unfairness of gender inequality.

This phrase particularly reminds me of a former boss: "remembering how he sneered at women, "can't paint, can't write," why should I help him. . ." and forevermore Lily Briscoe must gird herself and restore her dignity.

But the women exact their revenge, laughing at them, annoying them, teasing and despising them. Yet deep down inside, they are wounded as Lily points out, by the "most uncharming human being she had ever met."

"Why did she mind what he said? Women can't write, women can't paint—what did that matter coming from him, since clearly it was not true to him but for some reason helpful to him, and that was why he said it? Why did her whole being bow, like corn under a wind, and erect itself again from this abasement only with a great and rather painful effort? She must make it once more."

Would that I could write like Virginia Woolf.

One thing I would like to have, though, from that life is an old cottage just off the coast—a lighthouse keeping watch, and a garden with a hand to help, and a kitchen, also well staffed, so that I didn't have to do everything, always, by myself with my tennis elbow aching and my lower back threatening and my knee weakening. Would that I could spend my precious moments in revery at my dressing table with my young children picking out my jewels for the evening or holding a child in my lap, with his feather-like hair gently tickling my chin as I took in the sweet scent of his baby flesh while I read quietly to him at the window, overlooking all that was in my domestic range. Oh the desire of having everything just so, just the way we want it, from idealized novels to a real life haven. Now that would be heaven.   The Putterer

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Oh My Gosh! Oh My Gosh! Saturday and Sunny!

Ready! Set! Go!

What a crazy spring we've had. Totally behind schedule, or maybe just normal. I can't remember what's normal, given last year's super early spring. Just this week, the star magnolia bloomed. No blooms what so ever on the vibernum. I planted my sugar snap peas on the designated March 15th, but not a shoot had materialized last I checked. Cold and cloudy on Thursday when I watched the Nats win in an afternoon game, all bundled up with gloves at the ready. But this morning, oh the sun is up, and bright. And look at my garden. Isn't it gorgeous! My new raised beds have been carefully constructed by my friends over at Love and Carrots. I've planted a few rows of kale, chard and chicory. I was going to put in my potatoes last weekend, but ran out of time and so those will be the first to go in. After that, I've got to get my tomato plants out of the basement and transplant them into separate containers, and set them out on the deck today. They will love the warm spring sunshine. I also need to lay in some compost in the back area down by the rose bushes, but I don't think my weak back can stand the hoisting and throwing, so maybe that won't happen this year. Tomorrow, over at the community garden, we'll gather a gang for weeding. The chopped chips have been delivered for sprucing up the paths and tamping down the weeds around the cistern. I've got so much puttering ahead of me today. I can't hardly wait. The Putterer

Monday, March 25, 2013

Oh No! Snow!

March 25: Snow Day!

Out my window, in my garden, on my special gardening day—a day designated with a leave of absence for gardening—the snow is piling up, bending the daffodils, mounding up over the pots of pansies, piling up on my purple chair. Today, my contractors from the well-named Love and Carrots organic garden consulting company are scheduled to arrive with a pile of stone and several feet of boards to build my new raised beds. Today, I cleared my schedule at work. Today, I've prepared my garden. Everything is at the ready. But huge blobs of spring snow are coming down; and it looks like two and a half inches has already descended.

And the rocks arrive.
And just as my classic guilt sets in, the rocks arrive. And I am freed of that nagging worry that I should be sitting at my desk, fielding inquiry, and adding commas. The Putterer

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Saying Goodbye to My Journal

I filled out the last pages of my garden journal last weekend. I felt the end with a sense of mixed pride and panic. This was a free-form flow of the crazy mess that lives inside my head. The journal was heavy stock paper, the pens I used were colorful and bright. The handwriting I chose was wildly out of control or tightly purposeful. And the thoughts that arrived on the page varied from shopping lists to trite poems, or quiet observations of rain fall, bird chatter and the breezes I felt while sitting in my purple chair.

In this book, I've recorded my growth from a wannabe gardener to the genuine thing. In this book, I left remnants of half thoughts that I might flesh out into to posts in my Putter blog. In this book, I compensated for my lack of drawing skills with flowering handwriting flourishes, alternating with pink and green and purple pens. In this book, I wrote down page numbers, like bread crumbs, to find my way back to books or catalogs or journals that I've read. And now it's done.

So I've bought a new journal and this morning, I baptized it with a few entries, but it isn't quite my friend yet. The paper isn't as thick and my heavy ink pens bleed through. It's a moleskin—what the cool kids use—and it's the right size for tucking into my purse or tool bag and it's got a nice band and some page marking ribbons.
And it's got some stickers. Not free form. A little more organized. I don't know. I hope it works. The Putterer

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Graysnotes in My Hair, Seeds for Sunny Summer

What harvest will 2013 reap?

Puttering around this morning in my busy brain. My feet are freezing despite both the furnace and the flames in the fireplace. So we are thinking gardens again. But the days coming up this week are finally cold. No hard freeze this year in my garden. There's a white morning frost occasionally, but the day brings warmth and sun. There's a rose bush that still has blossoms on it, and a cone flower that is up with a bud suspended in time, but erect and green with promise.

So I'm picking out seeds and thinking about testing last year's leftovers by wrapping them in a warm, wet paper towel to see if they are "viable." I've renewed my permit for Plot #24 at the Community Garden. And I'm at the ready to place my order for some new raised beds for the backyard. But I'm behind on my fall cleanup. My tennis elbow injury kept me from racking the leaves and composting them into their winter canisters. Before long the early crocuses will be up and I won't see them hidden under heavy leaf cover.

That could be alright. The fence keeps people from seeing. No one can enter until I open the gate. Garden metaphors. They seem a little silly and trivial these days.

I noticed an abundance of gray in my hair this week. I asked Jim what I should do. He said, and you have to love a guy like this, "If you want to fix it, go do it well and expensively." But I'm kind of fascinated by the way they seem to be coating my head, not unlike the morning's white frost in the garden. They aren't really gray, they are white. And light colored. I don't know if I want to fix them. I might like them actually.

I wanted to do a post about my 2012 garden and the lessons it had taught me. But it was just one lesson this year, not worth a full post. The garden taught me that I don't have to do much sometimes to reap the harvest. For some reason when I couldn't get there to Plot #24 to water or weed, the garden did okay. The plants had been planted well in a lovely soil that retained moisture. The weeds that came up around the edges didn't take over and were easily pulled when I could come. The food ripened and was ready for me when I got there. The lesson is clear. Do the careful work and the rewards will come. And that's where I am right now.

Dad died on January 1 at 5:05 in the morning. (That's when the gray started coming in.) I think about him almost every day now. I feel like he is better and well, and he's not angry or frustrated anymore. I'm sadder for the time he was alive and unhappy than I am for the time now where he is gone from us. I hope in a rebirth, or a heaven, or an ashes-to-ashes, dust-to-dust kind of way, he finds lessons in this life's journey for his next path. I hope he visits me here on Earth and finds comfort in my contentedness.

I don't have my garden ready, but I am ready for 2013.