Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The last of it

Beauty in the dregs. I'm feeling this year folding up on me. It's a humming sadness, like what you feel when you have to retire a favorite pair of shoes or close the door to an empty apartment with the keys on the kitchen counter inside. It's the last of it - the last pops of color on my firecracker plant, the molding husks of the girls' first jack-o-lanterns on their way to the compost heap, a spring tipula well past his season taking advantage of a tattered banana leaf, and a few ambitious peppers found clinging to a naked plant in our tiny abandoned garden.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

To hope for the things we wish to want...

I feel electric. Chris says he feels electorate.

Barack Obama is the 44th President of the United States of America.

We did that.

I have never felt so proud to be an American as the moment last night when this election was called. I can’t really say that I’ve ever felt pride as an American before that moment, period. Our image abroad is poor, and we tend more toward individualism than cohesion - many of us keep to ourselves.

I voted thoughtfully in the last two presidential elections. In 2000, I punched in for Nader, because, at the time, I felt most represented by the Green Party; that was when I learned that a third-party vote is still a wasted vote in this country. In 2004, I not only voted (for Kerry), but bullied every friend and coworker into going to the polls as well; when those ballots were tallied, I sensed no injustice in technicalities - but rather the withering revelation that we were simply outnumbered.

But as the numbers rolled in last night, I knew that my knocking on doors in the cold and rain with the girls had helped 63,905,968 other fists beat down the door of the White House.

As young as they are, the girls’ excitement to walk for “O-BA-ma” stoked my own, and though Runa may not remember it in 20 years, she got to push the big green go button on my touch screen last week at early voting. I hope she never knows a time when she feels her involvement doesn’t count. And, at the moment, I have a lot of faith in hope. I look at my daughters today and think ‘We may not leave this as screwed up for you as I feared.’ I am proud that we have done this as a nation for all our daughters, and hope that we can ride this incredible collective surge of joy and accomplishment well into the hard work ahead of us.

I feel electric.

Monday, October 6, 2008


My stepfather passed away on Sunday. He celebrated his birthday in hospice care on Friday, and Sunday, after several years of increasing suffocation, he just passed - peacefully, they say - away. And the first thing my brother asked me when I told him was

Where did he go?


Why, I wonder, is it such a horrifying thought that perhaps he just went back to the dirt?

The dirt from which emerge my tangy sweet amana orange tomatoes and my fuzzy lemon cukes. The tomato blood-water runs over the edges of the cutting board, spilling onto the counter beneath. My mind confuses sound and touch as the kitchen blade slices the summer cucumber harvest, crunching through the skin, skimming through the flesh. I tumble the tomatoes and cukes with dill and mint from my dirt, purple onions, vinegar, sugar, olive oil. Sun, water, dirt, from my tongue, to my belly, to my cells.

The dirt that catalyzes seeds the size of the “d” at the beginning of the word into head-heavy, seven-foot sunflowers, with their scruffy stalks and lazy spreading leaves, and their faces smiling with a thousand little unpotentialized “d”s.

The dirt that smells so crisp, cools and dries my fingers and palms, when my husband and I break it and turn it and pack it back with our hands around spindles of green and brown that aren‘t as fragile as they seem. I drink my coffee with him over a shovel and a bag of Black Kow, puffed up with the accomplishments of a whole day before most people have finished checking their email in the morning. I hold his gritty hand.

The dirt on which my stepdad played football as a kid, that ground through his uniform to stain his knees and elbows, and sprayed under his helmet each time he took the ball to the turf in practice or game play.

The dirt that gets between our toes, fills our nostrils, finds its way beneath the most indoor fingernails, so pervasive, so integral to every moment of our lives.

The question is not Where did he go? but What do we do now without him?

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Adult ADD

It’s been a productive week for freelancing. A sizeable yearly project to which I’m committed has rolled around again, and I’ve been hacking away at it during the girls’ downtime - admittedly, a rare occurrence at 20 months.
Yesterday, Chris took both of them on an errands run to allow me time uninterrupted at the computer. After making a couple of phone calls, I checked email for further instructions regarding the job, and found a note from a local activist group that’s concerned about plans for a new cement factory less than 10 miles from our house.
The site was supposedly grandfathered as industrial because it housed a cement plant as recently as 20 years ago, but the neighborhood has evolved in the decades since that plant closed.
Wilmington has crept outward and now several housing developments and schools border the property. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has even expressed concern for large fish nurseries and native animal populations on the property, and for the potential damage to 600 associated acres of wetlands.
I followed some links through the site and spent a half-hour writing each of my representatives about their positions on Titan Cement.
Midway through the second email, I realized that I was using political activism to procrastinate.
Glad to have contacts for all these responsible people, I started to go back through the roster and vent on the bailout theme, but I thought better of it and went back to work.
I’ll put that off for another day.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Mid-August, and my tomatoes and I have mutually acquiesced to the late summer sun. Burnt and ragged, the tomato foliage weakly screens a fashionably late bounty of fruit. My attention to pest and weed management, as well as to twice daily watering, wandered off sometime in late July. Luckily, it seems the bugs and drought gave up about the same time, so my tiny garden is thriving with minimal maintenance.

Thursday, June 26, 2008


This dragonfly pitstopped in my verbena this morning for at least 20 minutes. I had time to watch it while I thought Chris was going back in the house for the camera, then actually go back for the camera myself after he returned with a dog in each hand instead. So intense was this dragonfly, that neither squealing toddlers nor bounding canines could oust it from my flowerbed.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Angry Gardening

There’s nothing quite like wielding a shovel against one’s own front yard of a mild May evening.
I love the gritty give of the coastal Carolina soil when I jump toes-first onto the top of the shovel head -it’s nothing like Manakin-Sabot red “shovel-goes-tink” clay.
I adore the crunching yelp of the matted grass roots when I kick the blade like a guillotine through the topsoil.
I savor the particles of sandy black dirt that coat my nostrils as I inhale more deeply with each mound of earthen entrails upturned.
A penciled drawing smudges back on itself in my jean pocket. It’s our landscape plan - give or take thirty feet and a different species of tree altogether.
Three river birches, lately thirsty in their pots on the edge of our driveway, will soon spread their toes and sink into a long drink.
But first, two rotten stumps and three brambled manhattan euonymus must go.
Every cut twisted euonymus branch is stripped of its leaves as it’s threaded out of the thorny vine that strangles it from the inside out.
After two days of lifting and pulling and cutting and yanking, my hands and arms are peppered with splinters. I’ve picked three leeches off my ankles and calves, and suddenly I find myself channeling Ripley.
“Take that, mother-fuckin’ euonymus. Eat my goddamn sawzall…YOU…BITCH.”
Chris finishes it off with the root axe…I can’t use that damn thing; it bounces off whatever I attack and just makes me feel puny; harshes the angry empowered gardener thing I’m cultivating.

With the view unobscured, I place the birches and score circles in the sod around the pots with my red-handled shovel.
I wonder if the front yard and I will plummet into some void, and a tiny round island with a potted tree will remain hanging in what looks like the vacuum of space.
Marvin Martian is there with a watering can.
I love playing in the dirt.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Killing the blues...

Decided to commune with blue today. Listening to Robert Plant and Allison Krauss - don't love the entire album, but it's growing on me. Feeling more visual than verbal...
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Saturday, April 5, 2008

Ghost Kitty

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Listening to the hum of the refrigerator with its malfitted seal; to the steady swinging of the dated ceiling fan in the kitchen, whose clacking competes with the tick of the mantle clock, a wedding gift from Chris’s dad. Some desperate bird is marco-polo-ing through the brief pause in spring downpour; I don‘t think his friends want him to find them. Cool air spits ineffectively through the screens, and a melodramatic home impovement show mutters in the living room - it’s imported on BBC so it must be enriching.
No over-spilling ashtray keeps my keyboard chalked these days. My head doesn’t hurt this Saturday morning. Breakfast is staying put. I ate breakfast in the morning. After I slept.
And I find the urgency to lay my bloody entrails on page has gone. I’ve licked them clean, put them back generally where they belong, and only remember when the barometric pressure drops that they used to hurt.
Is it possible to be creatively raw in a state of contentment?