It’s the contrast, the fear, the trip. And so it goes, departure. For me, things slow down on the eve of a trip. I give myself the luxury of poring over details. Giving myself…not a familiar phrase for a person who does not readily cut himself loads of slack. But so it goes, the hotel reservation. The communiqué from Messrs. SuperShuttle. The wheelchair-accessible taxi number. One document at a time. Slow.
Slow enough to take a long, lingering moment in the garden. The cover crop keeps asserting itself, buried leaves of ryegrass rising from the botanical grave. Rolling by at wheelchair height, this is irresistible. I grab a weeding tool and shove the grass back under its layer of steer manure. Funny stuff, steer manure. It may look like dirt, but it has the lightness of confetti and much the same tendency to scatter. Scooping a trowel full of it off the garden surface proves elusive. Piling it atop a rising knot of ryegrass requires a remarkable amount of effort. I have a copy of The Nation on my lap, an article from salon.com, a rain hat and now one dirty hand. What did I expect? You go out on the garden, mess around with dirt, and it’s hardly surprising that some of the substance clings to the suburban farmer. Enough. One must let go.
Speeding off to Café Borrone, I feel the essence of the thing retreating, my garden and how it has gone so well. The tiny sprouts that looked risibly vulnerable just two days ago stand sparkling in the raindrops. They are doing the Dance of the Cotyledons, more than surviving. They are going to thrive, constituting one of the three waves of lettuce and spinach coming my way. The happy accident of sprouts started indoors, small plants purchased at the local garden center and more seeds just sown by volunteer Paul yesterday. I got a few more seconds of my garden’s robustness as I wiped the dirt off my hands on the plastic support frame my brother has built around the raised beds. A temporary measure, he assured me, but I’m not so certain.
I found enough raindrops hanging from the underside of the frame to clean my hands. I found enough time to vouch for the turgidity and botanical enthusiasm of the tiniest, most minimal seedlings. And sensed something else. That however strange and unconventional and, doubtless, inadvisable, mine is the right approach. Everything is happy in its inch-thick layer of steer manure. And the latter is happily decomposing. A certain amount of nitrogen slowly washing down to the cover crop rotting beneath. The decomposition on the surface probably creating just enough heat to make a small difference. The nitrogen sluicing downwards making up for that consumed by the bacteria rotting the cover crop of grass and fava beans. None of this intended and all of it working out.
And what do I do now in the final squeeze of hours? There are only so many before departure. And many of them must be occupied with sleep. Reading material? Or something more sensible, like laying out my clothes to pack? The answer could not be clearer. Read. I don’t know where my concentration goes, and what preoccupation displaces it. But when it returns, feed it. This is my conclusion, a nurturing one. And good to know that when the chips are down, time running short, this is where my attention goes. In the right direction. Toward what is really needed by an addled mind. The direction of at least six all copies of The New Yorker. Westbound, toward several unread novels. Toward Hawaii.