Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Heavenly H. Days

"Yet Autumn calls for courage, as the end
Of all things calls for courage, - love or life;
Seldom with clean-cut slicing of the knife,
but a slow petering, a dismal droop...
Then in such days the flame of faith is low;
spring is far off, and in the Winder dread
Most tepidly and cowardly we go."
- V. Sackvillew-West, The Garden, Autumn

We are watching for the hurricane to hit San Diego, and my Mom’s old saying was spoken: Heavenly H. Days. (Mom was too refined to say Jesus H. Christ).

It’s not likely we’ll get the hurricanes. This is Tuesday – the morning I spend at the nearby Veggie Garden where I volunteer. I encounter other volunteers which I have come to look forward to as much as the communing with Nature in all her Seasons. I don’t consider myself particularly clever or wise. But I am smart enough to enjoy the company of a group of (mostly) women, whose common interest is that we are trying to obtain wisdom. We confer about strategies to survive amid the ruins of time, and impending drought. It was 110 at my house yesterday.

A mechanical switch governing the drip system to the Veggie Garden broke after the garden closed on Sunday, and was not noticed until Tuesday morning (today), when D.S. noticed a small river flowing among the pollarded crepe myrtles, carrying the miniature myrtle blooms in their wake like tiny people fleeing tsunami rapids in fragile purple boats.

The story was relayed to volunteers this morning, amid collective mourning over loss of 15k gallons of water – like some long lost, slightly peculiar uncle. There was musing about how we’d love to see some hurricane-related wind and rain released above our parched desert paradise gardens. While our neighbors on the east and southern coasts are praying for the wind and rain to go away, we wistfully long for it. When I headed out at 9:00, it was 77F. When I returned home overheated and dusty at 11:00, my car said it was 97, Fire seems to be lurking beyond every shadow, waiting to spring out into the white spotlight.

An observer would be forgiven (once!) for assuming we’re all mild-mannered, overweight, craft whores trying to save the planet by buying recycled paper for our scrap-booking. That is a testament to the excellence of our disguises, the solidity of our secret identities. We are actually superheroes who got here by working harder and for less pay than men. While they retired and discovered Viagra, we’re still cooking and washing, and still looking for interesting and worthwhile stuff to do.

It might also surprise strangers to learn that we’re still in love with our retired partners, who may want little more than a comfortable chair, HDTV with basic cable, and a remote with a mute button. And if our purchasing power is not as great as that holy grail demographic (18 to 25 Adult Swim boy-man gamers), we can tickle the economy with what we buy at the arts and crafts store. We’re the Candy Crowly fat: distinguished senior political reporters. We may be >50, but we’re still voluptuously alive. And unlike the kidsthesedays, we’ve got the money, if not the hip hop lingo. Oh yeah, and the brains. Like the bruise follows the blow, our energies follow our interests. We’re doing it on our own time, so dude, don’t judge us.

At any event, the veggie garden was drying off when we arrived. The soil is a gritty but well-drained and balanced environment; and it is now leached of years worth of salts and impurities from the air and water. The Veggie Garden, and it’s malfunctioning drip system also sit almost at the summit of the 4-acre garden, so water spilled there is never wasted. Thirsty trees in the plaza downriver and the large succulents looked smug and grateful. After about 36 hours of drip watering, the downstream plants were mostly glad, except for some shallow-rooted older specimens in the design loop which simply leaned over - like the acacia tree that once stood in the middle of my back yard.

Observe the skeletonized leaves of autumn – leached of chlorophyll, but pungent in the dry heat, like a fig or an old grape. Those gray-haired volunteers in the garden (and the craft store) raised the first families understood to be the primary entrepreneurial unit of our fiscally entitled homeland. It’s our kids that screwed it all up. Parents themselves now, it’s they who are the uptight OCD fascist parents afraid of tiny germs on their granite counters. It so happens that Wolf is reporting that their fear du jour is mine shafts and kids <16 driving ATVs. Those are the dunes near my house where we typically hear about the occasional uninvited guest roaming in thirst, but those guys have their priorities in order. Where can we play with our expensive toys? Where can we lead high-risk lives that the government keeps mostly risk-free? The poor girls fell down a rabbit hole, but their parents are not to blame. Ever.

What should be the first sprinkles of our wet season, feel like some eternally unlikely probability. This year, the dry season stretched its arms to encircle the last part of winter, and now it’s going for the first part of autumn. A hurricane would be welcome about now to leach the heat, revive our parched spirits, and to purify the land and those in it.

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