Thursday, September 24, 2020

After a full (mostly) night's sleep, I'm feeling less like a one-eyed catnip mouse with ears and tail chewed off and more like a regular crazy-haired person in a bathrobe who has hopes of getting dressed shortly.

Yesterday was warm, climbing into the mid-70s, a sudden change after our week of near-frosts, so I took advantage of the mildness to do a little more after-editing reclamation work in the side yard. In late August I told you about constructing a retaining wall and setting out a small strawberry bed in what had been a bare-dirt dead zone along one side of the house. That area is now thriving, so yesterday I extended my work a bit further toward the back yard, spreading a few bags of new soil, laying down a few of the path slates my neighbor gave me, transplanting some hosta and fern shoots and creeping thyme and tiny lady's-mantle plants from other beds--in other words, beginning to frame the corridor linking the front garden to the future back garden. It's a small area, a travel space rather than a place anyone is likely to sit. Still, as I'm learning to landscape, I'm realizing that such corridors are an essential element--kind of like the transitions in a poem, I guess . . . almost invisible turns; vital cues.

Inside the house, I did find a moment, between noisy son activity and paying work, to begin reading Byron's Childe Harold. I'm also immersed in David Treuer's excellent history The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee, and I've just finished my friend Meg Kearney's new chapbook, a crown of sonnets titled The Ice Storm. Just as I think I'm getting nothing done, I realize that I'm getting many things done. But I also know that my activity and my state of mind are chronic, illogical reactions to the terrible flood of news--the constant awfulness . . . Breonna Taylor's murderers not charged. The monster in the White House refusing to leave. The pandemic that will not end . . . Somehow, if I dig and water and plant and cook and clean and can and freeze; if I read stacks of hard books . . . if I do all of these dutiful tasks, then surely I can keep the world from disintegrating. Call it the Rumpelstiltskin approach to staying sane. I would be the ant in that scenario.

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