This morning Dale suggested we get our workout by working in the yard. It’s in the 60s today, so it’s a good day for it. I suggested he get rid of the woodpile next to the garage, which has probably become a haven for carpenter ants who eat our garage! Surprisingly, he agreed! Meanwhile, I decided to throw away all the junk that is in back of the lilac bush next to the garage. There’s a rickety, rotting fence which I leaned over to remove two rusted out metal garbage cans and took them out to the curb. Then Dale came over and we took the fence out to the curb also, and leaned it against a tree. When I was done, I had taken out:
Two metal garbage cans
Metal garbage can lids
Plastic garbage can lids
A piece of an old bird feeder
Wheeled cart (originally used to take the metal cans out
for garbage collection)
2 folding chairs whose vinyl woven seats are probably moldy
Lots of sticks, dead plants & leaves, which I put into one of the
plastic garbage cans marked with an X.
Then I went to the front of the house to try to clean out the area where the dead bushes used to be, but it was mostly mud. So I took the rake and started raking the leaves that have accumulated against the chain link fence. I found to my pleasure that my tulips are coming up! Some of them had grown right up through leaves, and the dead leaves were still wrapped around them. I gently pulled off the leaves to allow the tulip plants to expand, but left some on the ground for them to keep warm. I didn’t want to use a rake where the tulips were, so I scooped out the other dead leaves with my hands. I noticed that some of the tulips have a white stripe on the edge of their leaves, something I had never noticed before.
As I was tending to my tulip shoots, I noticed a junk dealer pulling up in a rusty white van stopping right in front of all the stuff we’d thrown away. He saw me looking at him and said (with a Spanish accent, I noticed) something like was it OK for him to take those things.
I called back, “Go ahead, take whatever you want!” as I gestured with a wave to indicate we were happy to get rid of it.
I noticed he left the piece of fence, but took all the metal stuff, including the chairs. He’s going to sell it to a metal recycling place, I surmised, and get paid for it. Some people make their living as junk dealers, I thought. These are the fathers of children like many of my students. It’s amazing that they can survive on this and maybe they don’t, not very well. But here he was, cheerfully out cruising for stuff thrown out by middle class people who lived in nice houses and were likely to be outside on a nice spring Saturday or spring cleaing, so he probably was taking in a good haul.
Turning back to my work, I started thinking about nature and how it always knows what to do. Tulips, daffodils and other bulb plants somehow know when to awaken from dormancy and begin poking out of the early spring earth. There is some kind of internal clock that plants obey, a natural clock – not an artificial one with hands and numbers that hangs on our wall. I marveled at this fact, that nature always knows what to do. We, on the other hand, supposedly the most intelligent species on Earth, don’t know what to do. We run roughshod over nature, we often don’t even notice it in our rush to go places, do things – talk on our cell phones, get in our cars, always rushing, usually stressed. We need doctors and pills to deal with our stress. The stress of our jobs, the stress of not having a job. The stress of trying to make ends meet, or trying to save for your kids to go to college.Last night we watched on TV as Congress debated what to do to avoid a government shut down while our artificial clock ticked down to the midnight deadline.
Congress made a deal, but it is only for a week anyway, and they will spend the next six days deciding who is going to suffer the most from cuts to social programs, NPR and Planned Parenthood (on which many poor women rely for health care), while corporations continue to make record profits and the gap between rich and poor widens. A bunch of politicians sitting in their plush leather seats in Congress decide the future for millions of people. And many of them are already unemployed – what more can be done to them while preserving the privileges of the rich? Thinking of my own situation, how much more can they squeeze out of education? Is it more important for kids to know how to read or for CEOs to get tax breaks and bonuses?
So there I was, digging in the dirt, noticing the green-white shoots of plants growing skyward, just as their logical natural clock tells them to do. I noticed tiny violets unfurling their purple petals in the grass. I noticed new branches on the lilac bush with green buds all along them. Seeing these things, I took comfort in the feeling of anticipation that spring brings, the comfort of knowing that nature always is there, doing what it is supposed to do. And I wished I could spend my whole day right there in the yard, that I would not have to face the illogic of the world human beings have made for ourselves.