Monday, April 18, 2011

When My Face Don't Wanna Shine

"... cuz it's a little bit dirty"

When my creative writing teacher, Sally Pansegrouw, assigned a prompt to describe a rainy day, I took a little different tack from my peers. I could have written about the drops running down the metal lockers (ours were outside) or waxed poetic on the concentric circles the drops made when they hit the puddles. Nope. Not me. It would not surprise a certain administrator, who often scolded me for being without shoes, that I chose to walk barefoot through mud puddles. and describe as eloquently as a high-school freshman can describe, the cool mud oozing between my toes. There is something oddly satisfying, in a juvenile way, about stepping into the rain-soaked soil. Oh, I know there's a potential for injury -- I've got stitches in my foot to show the damage a broken bottle can do to an unprotected foot wading through a creek. I do wish I still had this assigned paper - with the bold 'A' scrawled in the binder-paper margin. Once we get beyond, say.... sixth grade, seldom do we have the opportunity to play as we did as kids. As adults, we should feel the joy of mud once in a while, or at least be reminded how it felt.

This weekend, I got a little touch of my childhood. After Saturday's trip to the Farmer's Market and purchasing sugar pea plants, I knew I had to get them planted with a means for climbing before they began caressing each other with their tiny tendrils, coiling into a death grip around the stem of their neighbor. Once that sort of love-fest gets started, you're left with one big cluster of fragile stems and no way to really contain them. Unfortunately, Sunday was rainy but I was determined to get this job done.

I had pondered my homely little garden area, still covered with soggy cardboard to smother the lawn below. I knew my only hope, sans a trellis, was to run strings to the rafters of the chicken coop, below which were other plants. So I moved pots and dug holes as a light rain fell, pulling weeds as I went, moving bricks I use as plant bases, getting muddier and muddier as I went. I managed to clear enough space for the ladder, twisted two eye-bolts into the rafters, then three eye-bolts each into two nice chunks of driftwood I had collected. I set the driftwood on the surface of large pots and planted the peas, three to a pot, each with it's own little beanstalk to climb. And the drizzle kept on. Occasionally, I would feel the collecting moisture run down my scalp and on to my face. Mark kept looking at me and shaking his head (he's been doing that for more than 35 years so I'm used to it) taunting me until I, when I was wet enough, shook my head like a dog, flinging water in his general direction.

My hands were caked with mud. My sweatshirt (and bare arms) collecting more grime every time I shoved up my sleeves with grubby hands. My socks, worn inside perforated gardening shoes, wore the grit intended for my bare feet. Eventually, my job was done and I moved the other pots back into places where they could get the best of the small dose of sun that gets between the roofs into our yard. When I stood back to admire my work, my garden was as grubby as I was. Brown hand prints on the sides of my lovely green strawberry pot. Big, angry smears from rolling the huge pot that holds my Japanese Maple. I ran the hose around each pot, rubbing my hands over to clear the mud and bring back the shine to the glaze while simultaneously creating even more muddy puddles to splash through.

The cardboard is still ugly, waiting to be covered with compost and to accept a few zucchini plants. The bare soil awaits some hand-poured steps, a project for drier weather. I have a few empty pots awaiting the season's herbs though most of my herbs grow along my driveway, and artichokes, tomatoes and Brussels sprouts hunker between roses and hydrangeas in my sunnier front garden. But I like this grubby little planting and I think the hens will, too, as they watch the peas climb their way to the top of the coop, tempting them just beyond their wire barrier.

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