It's that time of year...
The Purple Rain cocktail, and its attending effects

20 years, fickle April, birthday countdown thoughts, and Earth Day

This isn't going to be the post I had in mind when I began thinking it over yesterday. My heart is a bit overfull just now.

Two things to think over which spawn many other channels of thought. First, I will turn 51 in six weeks. I like being a prime number. But it is a scary age for me to be. Second, this is my twentieth year having some sort of garden, though it's 23 if you count the zinnias under the tree in Olathe. I'm counting from the glorious garden I built in Saginaw in 1997, though. 
 Saginaw
I had little energy last year to give the garden a proper start, and so I have been happily and eagerly making up for it this year, only as we had no April to speak of, some of the vegetables which like April best are probably not going to produce really well before it turns hot. There is this thin window of time in which the ground is workable but not too cold, and the air is warming but is not yet hot. And this year, the window is even thinner than usual, because we reverted back to February at the end of March, then shot straight into May a few days ago. But such is gardening life along the 39th degree. 


My first garden, in Michigan, was kind of a thing of wonder. It became self-sustaining in two years' time, and was actually left alone to grow for at least a couple years more after I moved away. I didn't have all the internet advice I have now, and didn't even get much from the library. But I had towering tomato plants mixed in with all kinds of flowers and herbs, and just whatever I felt like growing. At first, gardening in New Jersey was something of a trial in comparison; the earth is very sandy there, especially where we lived, just three miles from the sea, and then five... Tintonfalls...and then more. Oh, I miss the sea. So I focused on the herbs, slowing adding in whatever I could when conditions allowed, and then for my last two years there, on the west side of the state, I had a 20x20 plot in a community garden. _DSC7794 - 2011-07-10 at 08-57-16 - Version 2 - 2011-07-10 at 08-57-16

That's where I really learned to garden, and where I learned to love gardeners. I will always treasure my brief time there, though I had a more difficult time finding some of the truly interesting plants there which were so easily available in Michigan. In NJ, anything which wasn't commonplace came at quite a premium. Well, everything just costs 30% more there. It makes people creative, though.
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I forgot I could be creative for awhile after moving here to Ohio into a neighborhood where a putting green lawn is valued far above the offerings of nature or my own "oldcountry" aesthetic desires. That is, I didn't forget, but I've been torn between worrying over lawn edgings and dandelions and needing to "express myself through the medium of growing interesting stuff in interesting configurations.” Doing it to satisfy both the neighbors and me would really just require throwing a lot of money around. You get more for your money here, but I can't justify it. 


So my back gardens in my rented space are semi-conservative little oases, and I treasure them as much as I can, while the front areas are more for public view, and no one knew what to think last year when I got the notion of growing middle eastern cucumbers on a trellis in front of the porch…if I told them that on the east coast, many people do not waste their front lawns on the cultivation of grass, they’d think it’s all just as awful as they believe they’re told by the news.

I never planned to have a garden, you know. This is because my mother had an enormous one for a couple of years, completely organic back when that was rather tougher to do in the post-mid-century living better through chemistry era, and I hated having to weed it. Well, I hardly weed my gardens at all. I just grow stuff between the stuff so I don’t have to. The carrots always need it, though.

I have repeated many aspects of my mother’s life, after being so certain I never would. I love gardening, I love old stuff. I have experienced some of the same pains and losses. And now I’m turning 51, the age my mother found a lump in her breast.

It is not 1987. I did not smoke as a teenager. I have not consumed huge quantities of Coke and Pepsi throughout my lifetime. I have eaten less processed food, though probably not much less. I cook with olive oil, I drink milk, I eat more fish, I breastfed my kids, and I’ve done a somewhat better job of keeping middle age weight at a reasonable place.

Still, and all. One can’t help but think about it and wonder. I have assigned all my belongings to various offspring, and I keep thinking they should not have too many drawers or boxes to sort through someday, because there’s only so much charm to be found in browsing through what other people won’t throw out.

I’m actually more likely to be felled by a heart condition because of my horrible teeth, but the fact is, from this point forward, the markers are not just, “Now I am older than Pushkin, Darin, Judy Holliday...*” but “I have been a mother longer than I had one,” “this is the age she got sick,” and two years, ten months older than I am now, “now I am older than my mother lived to be.”

So besides having my vitamins and checkups and thinking about doing a better job of making sugar calories matter, I’m working to be pleasant and giving and at peace with life, the universe and every little thing. Growing beautiful things and sewing gifts and making purple cocktails, helping tense cashiers calm down a bit, loving the dog and my kids and trying not to poison either the earth or other peoples’ hearts and minds keeps me pretty busy at that.

Here’s to Earth, to Mom, to Purple Rain, to all the Aprils you and I will live to see. Gardentools

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