Things are not quite what I had assumed in the spinach bed. Make your bed and lie in it, I say, thinking this would really be a pleasant option on this particular day.
While faintly protesting and shaking his head in disbelief, about a month ago my brother poured bags of steer manure atop the recently dug-in cover crop…and the resulting smooth and well kept look of the garden beds…there is more to it. Today, perhaps because the sun was out in force for the first time in weeks, I saw the oddity. Yes, things are sprouting and growing with much promise. But the steer manure is a couple of inches thick in places, a sort of sand dune of bovine byproduct. And does this matter in any way? It was not what I intended, that is all. Just as there appears to be a brussels sprout sprouting in the midst of some lettuce seedlings. About which one should not complain. Never have I seen a more errant and disappointing botanical performance than last year’s five-dollar-apiece brussels sprouts plantlets. Downright surly, they were. Give your offspring the best years of your life, or at least the best months, and what do they do but flip you off? But I’ve gone on about this enough, and the matter belongs to agrarian history. We let it go, the brussels sprout disappointment. Besides, the real point of fascination in this morning’s sun-illuminated lettuce bed is the cushy thickness of manure, truly soft enough to lie on, or burrow under. Which I would dearly like to do.
I don’t like waking at 4 AM, sleep insufficient, superficial buzz to things, fear wafting just under the covers. There are a couple of options. Crawling under the steer manure outside in my raised beds has not yet occurred to me. At this point, the better plan seems to breathe. Deeply, that is, for I can feel the short, shallow intakes of air. Fearful breathing. As though each breath could be my last, like sinking forever beneath the surface of the swimming pool I daily enjoyed in Hawaii. Fresh from intense study of Anger Management, I am now beautifully equipped in the fear management department. Which is why another option presents itself. I will spring to my feet, plop down in the wheelchair and head for the PC where, what else, Consumer Reports will tell me which vacuum cleaner to buy.
Amputees with their phantom limbs have nothing on the rehab-hardened quadriplegic. It actually occurs to me more or less in this form, leaping from bed. Never mind that I haven’t leapt anywhere for 43 years. And the same can be said of springing. Under the surface, one might say under the manure, my psyche is dealing with the reality. Getting out of bed, even sitting up on the edge of the mattress, will first require an untangling of feet and sheets, followed by a swiveling of torso and the gravity-fed dropping of my right leg…which actually may spring, more than drop, spasticity being what it is. This vacuum-cleaner-ordering idyll promises some relief from anxiety in its distraction. Furthermore, in fear-management terms, sitting up is a good thing. Remaining supine only adds to a general sense of helplessness, of which at this 4 AM juncture, I have a sufficiency.
Much better plan is the breathing. I attempt to do this, long, deep inhalations, but things do not work out. Shortness of breath wins the day, anxiety being what it is. Still, I keep trying. Caltrain is also trying, the 5:09 AM to San Francisco currently rolling through Menlo Park, horn blowing, locomotive roaring. I am getting older. I have a growing list of things to do, the vacuum cleaner being somewhere near the bottom, actually. They are not getting done, these things. Time is slipping away. Life is slipping away. And I have this long walk across a parking lot, no crutch, and not much of a limp, if one thinks about it…which one isn’t, the apparent supermarket across the pavement actually being a theater, and my 3 PM performance imminent. Too bad I haven’t used the toilet or showered, things which will require my return home, and since there is less than an hour until curtain, well, there is good reason for fear. All of which ends, as all dreams must, and there is sun slanting through the venetian blinds of my bedroom. And there has been sleep. Okay, not enough, but I can’t complain.
Yes, I can. For I may have slept, but there are precious few signs. Actually, I feel as though this is just a brief respite from the Crimean War…the battles not very distant, my return to the front lines inevitable. Now I really do get up, get in the wheelchair and get on with it. Team Filipina is on its way, after all. Actually, just one member, Menchu. I must be ready. I make tea. I do not make plans. Have a gentle day, Jane would advise. Have a cappuccino, I decide once dressed and slightly exercised. Menchu has walked me up and down the apartment footpath. We stopped to have a look at the sprouting garlic. And either out of relief or anxious hysteria, not that it matters, we improvised new lyrics for ‘We’re off to See the Wizard,’ a commentary on our arm-locked procession.
Howard Jacobson, I consider en route to Peet’s, does a fine and comical job of capturing the sardonic in London intellectual life. With Jewish tones and what-is-Jewish-about-Jewish tones skillfully stirred in. But I sometimes wish he would be a little less skillful. The style of ‘Kaloochi Nights’ was a little more clunky, more vulnerable, more human. It takes a lot of critical energy to write, and to read, Jacobson’s latest prizewinner. Yet, from another perspective, I was resistant to seeing Mike Leigh’s film about the ever upbeat Londoner Poppy. Yet the movie proved something of a tonic. I can be too cynical. I can be too critical. We find the upbeat where we can. Sometimes it even finds us.
The young woman who waits on me at Peet’s has won my eternal love through her proactive sprinkling of powdered chocolate atop my cappuccinos. She knows my name. She brings drinks to my table. She is bright and sunny and, at this very moment, asking me if I would like to buy a scone in support of Stanford Childrens Hospital. It seems that if I act now, 25% of my bakery purchase will go to the children. A calorie-challenged quadriplegic needs a scone like William Burroughs needs more heroin. Buy one for the next person, she asks? Sure, I tell her. It’s an odd suggestion, but not a bad one at all, and the middle-aged woman who gets the free chocolate chip cookie thanks me profusely. I am a good guy, uncritically, inadvertently, good. And now a good guy heading home, perhaps to bed, but actually to the raised bed, the one currently warming the spinach plants. Just call me Lucky. If it was good enough for Beckett, it’s good enough for me.