Thursday, May 17, 2012

heartache, gardens, and odd bedfellows (aka, just try to make sense of this one)

I have many days when I think I see someone I know, and am sometimes even on the verge of calling out to them, when I realize it can't be that person. That person doesn't live here. I left him back in Monterey. I haven't seen her since exiting California. It's always startling.

Ever since I was in college, I have experienced what may or may not be related physical symptoms of a subtle ailment or ailments that has never been satisfactorily labeled by the measures of western medicine nor a few other kinds either. The issues are never crippling; always hard to accurately describe; often flare and diminish by turns; never obvious to the casual passerby. Yet they are persistent and they affect how I can function and what kind of success feels within my grasp. This heartache is like that.

In April we went for an almost two-week trip to California. It was wonderful to be back. It felt like being reintroduced to myself.

I'm having more than a little trouble letting go, believing that we are staying here, on the east coast. (And, really, people, I use the term “coast” rather loosely since there ain't no beach in these parts.) I got to do a poetry reading while I was back in California, which made it all better/worse. Ironically, just after I returned I was also asked to be the “local spotlight poet” at a new open mic here. I'm feeling conflicted about this “local” billing.

I am sitting here trying to figure out how to write about what I want without knowing what it is I want. Without simply whining all over the page. The way I interact with people here feels not unlike the first year after I moved to New Jersey from Long Island when I was 10. I am weary and unconvinced that this new environment will save me. I am hostile toward whatever is different – the weather, the radio stations, the baseball team. And my heart aches all the time. So far I've managed to keep my conversations with neighbors about gardening, but don't think I haven't considered calling them out to prove how tough I am. Hit me! Go ahead! I'm from California!

I really do wish that the New Englanders could say shit like, “Shut the fuck up and go back if you don't like it!” I'd appreciate that. It'd feel like a conversation opener. But they are way to repressed polite for that. And so I bumble along, defending wherever I am not. Bringing back more succulent cuttings, orange poppy seeds hoping to see some California in my garden.

People who listen to my whining keep asking me if we are going back. These people a) need to better familiarize themselves with the nature of whining, b) have clearly not already moved a family cross country once in the last 11 months, and c) don't hold out unrealistic hopes of the 116-year-old house they bought because it had a big kitchen and was close to the park becoming livable for more than the mice someday.

Oh and to help me along in my house confidence, there's this...

The bank that owns our mortgage has paired with Duncan Donuts. I can't decide. The road to solid and sure financial survival? Or kitchy and embarrassing? Now you can get your Boston cream and drop off your interest payment in the same location! So convenient.

As we set off into the land of (hopefully) summer renovations, plans to increase the value of our investment, I feel assured that the folks backing the biggest purchase of our lifetime will be there for us, our hopes handed back to us, an extra for each dozen dreamed, separated by little squares of wax paper in those perennial pink boxes.

I guess I had expectations I didn't know I had. Such as, a bank should stand on its own, its employees well-manicured, their desks bereft of anything personal, and not sharing real estate with people on a caffeine buzz jaunting in and out before work dunking rainbow sprinkle-infused fried dough into their morning cuppa.

Maybe 2012 is more insane than even it aspired to be. Or maybe we just all need some company in who we are. Maybe it's healthier to coexist with those unlike us. Standing on our own has always be a dubious American value.

In fact, when I stop to think about it, I have tried to explain this concept in my own way to my New England neighbors who all ask me when they look at the gardens we've dug – “Vegetables or flowers?” “Yes,” I answer. Whoops! Did I forget to plow a perfect grave garden – a rectangle of dirt with all the little plastic markers lined up like tombstones? Did I forget to ghettoize my garlic, lest their tassled little heads bend to touch the calendula?

I am making my mother a garden. As in, I am planting a garden that reminds me of her that I can go to and think of her, that will henceforth in our house be known as “grandmom's garden.” I put in a few canna lilies, planted cosmos, zinnias, marigolds. I'm working on what else. It's not a big space right now. Just a circle (I know, right?) around a small forsythia bush, its yellow blossoms done now for the season.

I started the garden a couple weeks back. The old man down the street walked by with his dog and told me he thought the ground was still too cold for things to germinate. It's May. MAY. I don't give a New-fucking-England. It's MAY. Shit should grow in MAY. I thanked my neighbor and continued. I knew they'd grow. First of all, I'm planting my mother's garden like my mother would plant a garden, that is, I'm throwing seeds at the ground and sometimes I cover them over in dirt with the toe of my shoe. Okay, truth be told I'm not being quite as true to her methods as I could be. Sometimes I remember what I planted where, and sometimes I even have a kind of plan when I begin. Sorry, mom, I'm just an apprentice.

Zone this, baby. All the seeds are up.

Today, I was out in the garden looking. Not just at grandmom's garden, but all my gardeny bits. The rhubarb, the tomatoes, the snapdragons out there with their little towering mouths, trying to intimidate the alyssum, the dalia bulbs coming to life, the chamomile stretching its arms like a good yogi. It's the first place I go now when the small creature goes down for a nap. I just go to the garden. Usually there is something else to put in the ground still. Sometimes though I just wander, pull up a maple tree seedling, watch. And I realized something. Every garden is my mother's garden. She is why I do this. She is part of every decision in the dirt.

I'll keep grandmom's garden what it is, though. And keep my other gardens “mine.” Because we like to pretend we stand on our own.


Barb said...

lovely: "She is part of every decision in the dirt." And yes, on that final insight. Really enjoyed this.

Daryl Edelstein said...

You made me miss her all the more .. my mind wandering back to those emails she and I exchanged about the plant she brought indoors to spend the winter hibernating but ending up growing this long tendril she took pix of ... she's enjoying watching you nest and plant .. I know she is ..

Kitty said...

@barb, Thanks for finding meaning in my mishmash

@daryl, A mandevilla, I think is what she babied all winter. I keep seeing them and wondering if I should get one.

Jen Hartley said...

Hi. Just discovered your blog since you linked to it in an email to the community garden list. I like your writing. Your comment about wishing New Englanders would just swear and ask you why you don't move back already made me laugh. Why DID you move here? (See, can't quite bring myself to swear...)

I appreciate your perspective on grief, and gardening, and being a parent. Thanks for your words.

I'm also a parent (of a 5-year-old daughter) and a gardener. We (plus husband/daddy) live on High St. in Florence.

Hope to meet you sometime.

Kitty said...

Hi Jen,

We live close to one another. Email me at montereybound AT gmail DOT com if you have the chance. Thanks for reading.

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