|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.