Saturday, August 04, 2007

The Absurdity of Gourds

“Wherever we go, there seems to be only one business at hand – that of finding workable compromises between the sublimity of our ideas and the absurdity of the fact of us.”
Annie Dillard – Teaching a Stone to Talk

Sometimes we cultivate our gardens, hoeing orderly rows from chaos, and sometimes they cultivate us, giving us back the sublime peace we crave. Ornamental gourds are a lovely metaphor for the absurd in a vegetable garden. You don’t grow them to eat. You grow them to use.

This week at the Veggie Garden we harvested tons of tomatoes, eggplants, baseball-bat sized zucchini that we missed last week, and cut back the gourds again. I could write about being out of my gourd, but I’m actually back in my gourd, metaphorically speaking.

My kitchen floor is mostly done, my refrigerator is back home, my patio is swept and watered. What a relief order is. My sensory paths through this past week have trailed miserably through a cacophony of input that exhausted me.

From last Monday to the day before yesterday, I was unable to walk from the back yard to the kitchen, an assault on senses I didn’t even know I had. I couldn’t walk this way without choking on dust, tripping over tools, being assaulted by the stench emanating from the overflowing kitchen trash bin, hearing the buzz of flies indoors, seeing clutter and dirty dishes every place in between. I don’t know how to navigate the uncertain seas of the universe, but I do know I like a clean ship.

The gourds will make great bird houses, succulent planters and assorted painted creatures. I think they have to dry on the vine, then cure for a year first. The gourds I grew and harvested last September were recently opened and found fresh and moist. Now, with holes and cleaned out, they’re covered with mold. Charming.

Gardens, real and imagined, are for me, first and foremost, a sanctuary. My back yard isn’t exactly an enchanted medieval old-growth forest, with trees shaped like tortured Norse warriors. No magical forest creatures haunt the twilight like ghosts composed of blowing Spanish moss. My Spanish moss, imported from Savannah this past Spring, is enduring what must be a long nightmare of climatic apocalypse in its new home in my parched back yard. Even the gourds in the Veggie Garden are looking thirsty and tired. It’s a good thing that while I cultivate a garden, the garden cultivates me. No matter how tired and thirsty I return from outside, I also feel sublimely refreshed.

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