Saturday, August 21, 2010

Cabbage white house

Today, I have established the ten minute rule. The ten minute rule is the result of a yard overgrown with nimblewill and crabgrass and purslane. It is also a product of a season of contemplation of the roots of many of my personal problems.

Last year, I felt so overwhelmed by unfinished projects that I became depressed and quit doing anything at all, which just led to more unfinished projects. During the spring, I attempted to get the yard in order, and I found that I could accomplish a fair amount if I worked a little each day. If I worked too much, I became exhausted and discouraged and resented having to work the next day.

Then summer came, and I participated in the National Writing Project Summer Institute, which was a wonderful experience, but left me as depleted as any outdoor venture. Consequently, all projects were once again put on hold.

Now, the yard is worse than before, and I've again been overcome by that sense that it's just all too much. The kitchen garden is overgrown with lush carpetweed. It's almost beautiful. It is beautiful in its own weedy way, green and flush. The collards were long ago devoured by cabbage worms, which I couldn't entirely detest because they did become the loveliest cloud of cabbage whites. The tomatoes, all except for one hearty bush of golden orange jelly bean tomatoes, died horrible deaths at the hands of summer heat and too little calcium in the soil. They exist now as skeletal brown cobweb plants. The pumpkins dried and withered, as did the squash and even the zucchini which I'd had such high hopes for. The watermelon, God bless it, has thrived, sending vines with the daintiest sunlight yellow flowers climbing up the makeshift fence, even dangling watermelons there. The zinnias didn't do too poorly, sprouting in the decay of the pumpkin leaves. However, the cucumbers were a hot mess, yellowing and swelling and lying like bloated corpses on a Civil War battlefield. The morning glories and moonflowers grew and overtook the fence as I had hoped.

The foundation beds around the house are full of quackgrass and bluegrass, and then again the pieris that had finally bloomed in the spring for the first time in years, drooping white bells, disintegrated in the heat of July, drying up and turning crackling brown.

Everyday, I walked out in the yard and felt a heaviness on my chest and a hopelessness. How in the world can one woman manage this?

Today, I worked in one bed for ten minutes. That's it. I cleared a space of approximately one foot by one foot before I retired. For a moment, I allowed myself to feel that inevitable sense of despondence that comes from looking at a foot of cleaniness situated pitiably in two lots of shamble. But then I decided that if I worked for ten minutes a day, I could accomplish much more than if I didn't work at all. In that light, much could be done, and so I tried not to appraise the rest of the yard, just my little bit of labor right here and now. Granted, it won't ever look like a yard in Better Homes & Gardens, but it won't look as ramshackle as it does right now. And then, what would be the benefit of having a Better Homes & Gardens garden anyway?

In the meantime, I'll have to bear in mind Sei Shonagon's passage in her pillow book when she declares that the garden of a woman who lives alone should be overgrown and dilapidated looking because it is more romantic than a neat garden. I suppose the single woman with an overgrown garden has better things to do. If she's always working in the yard, she must not have a life.

1 comment:

  1. there could also be another approach to your yard problems. let it grow. just let it take on whatever life it wants to. when fall comes - and it's just around the corner, it will be much easier to cut it all back.

    until then, go have fun. :)


Creative Commons License
A Mirror, A Summer, A Street by Autumn Crisp is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.