Thursday, March 22, 2012

It All Comes From What Died Before.

Photo Credit: Flickr by Vanessa Vancour 

I have been very productive today. The sun is out, my yard seems ablaze with the possibility of springtime, and I am shrieking with childlike delight at each earthworm I discover in the leftover decay of winter. Because I practice permaculture–or try to–piles of leaves that have fallen on everything and degenerated under a heap of snow and ice are not a problem for me. Rather than coming in like a maid after a drunken party to clean up the vomit and broken bottles, I am an archaeologist searching for treasure that was left by the world while I waited, snug in my house. Winter has been sitting on my eggs.

Underneath the thick mulch of rotting aspen leaves which I laid on my vegetable bed last fall, there is soil as dark as coffee grounds. And as I lift a handful, worms thick as small ropes slide out from the loam, tiny soil organisms writhe in the embarrassment of sudden light. I am laughing, jubilant. I get it. All possibility is born of decay. It all comes from what died before. I am full of life, writhing with the inner action of soil-turning worms making my waste into fodder for new growth. The world knows, for the most part, two paradigms–rot and cultivation–but this speaks to another.

Putrefaction. The smell of wasted talent, days of usefulness that lie behind one, dreams that will now go unfulfilled. The necessity seems that I lie rotting on the ground, overcome with my pain. "Tara is ill now. Tara is in pain. She can't be asked to make this difference, contribute this service, offer this opinion. She has fibromyalgia and suffers with it terribly." Born of compassion or born of the easy, simple neglect we often show a friend whose illness has taken them from the sphere of our common activities, these thoughts turn me to something corrupted by my illness, unusable as a piece of moldy cheese left too long in the refrigerator. I want very much that the world should notice my need for a comfortable chair, or a call to ask how I am doing, but I never wish that the world would leave me alone to wane quietly in a corner. I am not ready, at thirty-six, to rot.

Cultivation. The tilling of soil, the turning of earth to loosen it for planting, to add fertilizer, to remove rocks, to rake. We have all been doing it as long as we remember, we know how to do it and know that it is right. The work of it seems somehow to be God's work, in particular. And yet, and yet...Just the same as we know, we know the necessity of a positive attitude, a forceful insistence on taking the bull by the horns, conquering indecision, being the author of our own lives, advocating, pushing forward, coaxing the plants to produce. And yet...

I let things lie. I let them compost in place. I cut down the vegetables of last year's garden and leave them scattered about the soil, as messy as the floor of a child's room. I layer down compost, manure, straw, leaves, water. And I practice faith in Nature, which has been making things grow, unaided by humans, for time immemorial. I simply help by moving Her ingredients to the right place. The mistakes of last year–the odd tomatoes, the funky asparagus, the Brussels sprouts that didn't produce in the first year–they are all still there, making that soil richer and wiser. That soil will have a history that can be read in the deep blackness of its crumbly soft meal.

I let myself lie. I makes decisions slowly, letting all of the scraps of consideration slowly turn into something fine enough to use. I am composting everything I ever was, wanted to be, or planned and failed at all the time. No dreams are swept away, just tucked under a protective layer of mulch. The girl who wanted to act, the woman who first married then divorced, the mother who thought she could protect her firstborn son from the world through her vigilant insistence on wooden toys, the runner, the vixen, the addict, the student. They are all in there, steeping in the mingled history of my terra firma.

Because I have swept no parts of myself into the corner of a landfill, I remember what it was to be a teenage addict, and I love addicts, as well as teenagers. Because I have not scorned the twenty-two year-old child who brought my first son into the world, full of ignorance and theory, I remember that I do not know how hard the parents of my failing students may be trying. Because I remember living through a divorce, I stop, catch my breath and try again in my current marriage, over and over and over. Because I have failed and not forgotten, I have humility in my roots, nourishing the leaves and flowers I dare to put forth anew.

I am not better than I was. I am just a product of the power of sunlight and water put to organic matter. I am proof that humanity always moves, transforms, wakens, alters, when we make full use of ourselves.

17 comments:

  1. I have no words. This is just gorgeous. Crying a little. "Because I have failed and not forgotten, I have humility in my roots..." perfect and true.
    With such rich soil, you have no choice but to grow. I will snip your blooms and keep them in a vase in the sunshine where I can see them.

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    1. My husband commented that it sounded as if it was written by you, Suzanne, which annoyed me vaguely for a moment (because of jealousy for my identity or something) before flattering me greatly. But it is fitting because the first paragraph started as an email response to you about what I had been doing all day, when you asked on Wednesday, so I think your beautiful writing seeped into my consciousness somehow. :)So M's comments is more apropos than she knew.

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    2. What an odd thing to say. It sounds 100% like you and it's gorgeous. I don't write emails that are that beautiful. Our forthcoming book will attest to that! ;)

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  2. Wow. I don't know that I have anything to contribute. But, of course, comments aren't always about contributing to the writer's work. (psst ... that means you're a writer, even if my comment engine booted you out) Comments, sometimes, are simply meant to be a bit more sunlight and water for the organic matter.

    "I am not better than I was. I am just a product of the power of sunlight and water put to organic matter. I am proof that humanity always moves, transforms, wakens, alters, when we make full use of ourselves." Love.

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    1. Thanks. I felt especially proud of this one, as if I had given birth to a though that had been gestating for a long time, wanting to be said. :)

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  3. "Because I have failed and not forgotten, I have humility in my roots, nourishing the leaves and flowers I dare to put forth anew.

    I am not better than I was. I am just a product of the power of sunlight and water put to organic matter. I am proof that humanity always moves, transforms, wakens, alters, when we make full use of ourselves. "
    This was truly lovely. What a moving post.

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  4. Beautifully profound and moving. It's so wonderful, this internet-thing, that allows us to share our thoughts. I love reading other people's writing, the way they find connections and then weave them in such lovely ways. This did remind me a bit of Tangledlou,(said as the highest compliment to both of you) but it is also very you.

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    1. Thank you very much, Jewels. I love the comments as much as the writing–well ALMOST as much.

      I think anyone I enjoy reading sort of seeps into my bones. I read Pilgrim at Tinker Creek over and over in college and my professor then commented, on a paper, that I sounded like Annie Dillard. I have been told I write like the Bloggess (when I write humor), but it is probably because I enjoy her so much. I love Kurt Vonnegut and his line "So it goes." kept working its way into the end of paragraphs and sitting down like a patient Saint Bernard who wouldn't move, so I left it there.

      I read Tangled Lou and I consider her a friend, so I think she has made me a better writer by adding her distinctive turn of phrase into my mental lexicon. What, I think, makes this post so much like her that my husband commented on it is that she is brilliant at searching the full scope of metaphor within a seemingly ordinary thing, which was sort of what I was doing here. Anyway, I have decided that I am profoundly honored by the compliment. http://peripheralimages.blogspot.com/ Here's her blog, in case you are one of my readers who is not familiar with her but enjoys looking through comment threads. :)

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  5. I'm moved beyond words. So great!

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  6. I was listening to "Little Earthquakes," by Tori Amos as I read your post. It fit perfectly.

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    1. Wow! To be well-suited to a Tori Amos soundtrack is a compliment indeed. Perhaps it is the years and years I have spent listening to Tori Amos that makes this so pleasing. :)

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  7. Wonderful, again. I'm so glad I've found your blog. :)

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    1. Thanks very much, Elizabeth. I am glad to be found. And, by the way, I totally don't get the Kardashians either. :)
      http://faithinambiguity.blogspot.com/2011/12/do-these-neck-ridges-make-me-look-fat.html

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  8. This is a beautiful piece of writing, Tara! So very much to think about. Thank you.

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  9. There is so very much to adore and ponder over here. Fantastic job.

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