Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Jester’s Garden

"...Earth gets its prize for what Earth gives us;
The beggar is taxed for a corner to die in,
The priest hath his fee who comes and shrives us,
We bargain for the graves we lie in;

At the devil's booth are all things sold,
Each ounce of dross costs its ounce of gold;
For a cap and bells our lives we pay,
Bubbles we buy with a whole soul's tasking;

'Tis heaven alone that is given away,
'Tis only God may be had for the asking;
No price is set on the lavish summer;
June may be had by the poorest comer..."

- James Russel Lowell, “The Vision of Sir Launfal”

Ahhh, June. Beloved Cliché Season. Grist for every poor poet’s fondest seasonal metaphors. Who am I to consider myself cliché-immune?

My three June wishes?
1. I would like to have an original thought in or about my garden.
2. I would like to have an epiphany or otherwise achieve self-realization in my garden.
3. I would like to leave the world a better place.
4. Two more wishes, please?
5. Sit perfectly still and meditate in my garden.
6. Negotiate a bargain for the grave I will lie in.

…. Although, the final wish sorta reveals the existential capitalism of my soul, eh? I don’t think Marx would spin in his grave if I defined “value” as some quantity other than legal tender. Like self actualization or inspiration. Perhaps I would value my garden more if it had a coherent design; if it was more sublime than cute, more conducive to thought than clever jokes or cliches.

Probably not. The value of my garden is more to be seen inside my head than inside my garden. Not only is it’s worth invisible to others, it is impossible to describe in words. If I tried using only words to explain my garden’s worth, I’d at least have to add different colors to different words, and special fonts to indicate mood, and italics to indicate slightly crooked thoughts – like Emily Dickinson said about telling the truth, but telling it slant. Come to think of it, I would need to include sounds of nature, sounds of my latest iPod playlist, maybe even sounds audible only inside my head. So I’d need all my senses to even attempt to describe the value of my garden, and even then it would probably involve more clichés than an attempt to describe a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest.

I don’t have to spend my life, or sell my soul, or steal a solitary place to die in like a wild animal. I’ve got my garden to grow old in, and to tally my regrets before I die. First regret: the transience of Youth. You made me cry, when you said goodbye. Ain’t that a shame?

And yet. Heaven is free, and so is my garden. My cap and bells cost me nothing except a propensity to use lame metaphors in lieu of original ideas.

Besides, I don’t have to leave the world better than it was when I arrived. I only have to, on balance, do more good than harm while I’m here. Hence, the garden and its intrinsic value to me. June may be had by the poorest customer for free. It’s priceless.


walk2write said...

Your blog is priceless too. I've already decided if I don't have the nerve to just drift out to sea when it's time to go, I want my ashes sprinkled around the roses in the garden...if I still have one then. Ah, isn't life fun? We start out being self-defecating, turn to self-deprecating somewhere in the middle, and then--if we live long enough--end up where we began.

colleen said...

Very thought provoking and a challenge for the economists. What is the currency to measure the value of the "statistical" garden? You've come up with some imaginative ones here and I'll be thinking about this more, I know.