Wednesday, March 01, 2017

My Subject Rather Chose Me.

I like to consider myself a gardener.
Now Mars and I are moving to the inhospitable growing climate of northern New Mexico.  I deeply enjoy working my shovel and my hands in the cool spring soil, placing plants into the earth, watering them into life, trimming them when they impinge upon each other, cutting them back when their growth season has ended, and raking off the leaves and discovering the first green buds of spring. Things that I'm almost certain are not going to happen in our new southwest home.  But I think what I will miss more than anything is the most mundane of all gardening activities – mowing the lawn. Grass grows in Santa Fe – but not in the quantity that merits the term “lawn”.  And even those small green areas are few and far between.
The yard that I now have takes about an hour and a quarter to cut.  My parents always rented and neither one had any interst interest in things horticultural.  So, other than some work I did one summer as a teenager for my hometown’s Parks Department, my yard is the only “lawn” that I have ever manicured.  And I have come to really enjoy the work.
But such was not always the case.  Mars and I took occupancy of our house in early spring of 1977 – just in time for everything floral, arboreal and vegetative on the property to begin their annual growing cycle.  And there were a lot of things – most of them unknown to me – but the one that even I could recognize was the lawn. 

A newly acquired mortgage, and a single, less-than-affluent income told me that paying someone else to do the job was not an option. So after a quick trip to Sears for a red Craftsman mower, I began what quickly became my Saturday morning mowing drudgery.  Inexperience, plus too many years of physical inactivity and forty-plus hours a week of demanding computer work left me ill-prepared me for this Sisyphean project.  Like the rock-pushing Greek King condemned by the Gods to an eternity of laborious and futile labor, I was doomed.
And then…    

As I have described in more detail elsewhere I was soon rescued from this fescue funk by the hired lawn-slinger who maintained the property of the older-couple diagonally across the street – and who had, at least in my semi-literate mind, a great physical resemblance to the American novelist Ernest Hemingway.  Inspired by “Ernest’s” energy (he was easily as old as, if not older than, his employers) – but mostly by his technique, flair, and fashion (when he was done the lawn was uniformly short and clean, like his hair and beard) –  I began what has become a life-long fusing of the literary and the down-to-earth. 
The mowing became less tedious and I realized more about how the work affected me, and the effect that I had on the lawn – as well as the effect that other gardening work could have on the rest of our yard, and myself. 
And I began writing about it.
The Men’s Garden Club that I joined a year or two after acquiring our house was kind enough to let me share my floricultural musings with its membership on a monthly basis.  Our local town newspaper occasionally published some of my other essays.   When I retired from my day job, our son and daughter-in-law presented me with an online blog into which I can pour any other such writings. And concurrently my interest in things horticultural continued to grow as I found that my labors in the loam provided more food for thoughts.
Mars likes to say ­– more in reference to my horticultural skills than to my artistic adroitness – that I am a writer who happens to garden, rather than the opposite.  That’s probably more true than not.  I’m not great at either – but I certainly wouldn’t be either without the other.  Fortunately one of the two pastimes is transferable to New Mexico where I will hopefully find plenty of new fodder on which to chew.
As the real Ernest once said, “I never had to choose a subject - my subject rather chose me.”

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