catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 6, Num 10 :: 2007.05.18 — 2007.06.01


Outdoor heart

I've got these friends who are realizing their farming dreams in suburban metro Detroit.  They've been lovely about it.  They've grown an aesthetic garden, they barter and they bake.  But now they've gone a bit further—some would say, too far.

My mother is a gardener.  I grew up watching her tend flowerbeds and making our yard neat as a pin.  It didn't take.  I watched television and rode my bike while she weeded and unwound in the dirt.  I used to wonder why she didn't teach me about flowers and temperature zones.  Now I know that she was getting away from us kids, not looking for another teaching opportunity.  It's forced me to come into gardening on my own, her commitment the only generational gifting.  Commitment without knowledge isn't ideal, but hey, it's something.

Gardening occurs to me like new shoes occur to someone.  “Hey, I need new shoes” they may think as they put on their worn ones.  “Hey, that could be a flowerbed” I think as I drive up to my house.  I'm not fluent, so in my adulthood when I meet folks who are my age and way into gardening, I just marvel. 

Nathan and Amy are such folks.  They grow their own food.  They grew garlic last season.  Garlic.  It's just amazing to me.  I was inspired, so bought a couple of tomato plants.  It didn't really work out so well.  Something about watering, I don't know.  But they were just knocking out the vegetables, giving away the stuff because they produce and produce. 

So this season, I'm giving it another shot.  I have a neighbor who tilled me up some earth and I've begun to plant.  So far there's a row of carrots.  I put some peas and cucumbers along the fence.  I don't know if I did it right, but it's done.  After the freeze date I'm going to the farmer's market to buy lots of plants.  That's right, I now know about the freeze date.  Combine that knowledge with water and I'm in business.

Talking with Nate and Amy, I let them know about my new endeavor.  They yawned and tried to feign interest while I noticed something in their backyard.  They'd taken their children's wooden playhouse and painted it red.  The door has a big white X across it and I wondered if they hadn't found out about miniature cows. 

“What's that?”  I say pointing.  They turn.

“That?  Oh.”  They look at one another and smile a quiet, farming smile.  “We're going to raise our own meat this year.”

“Meat?  What kind of meat?” 

They launch into the albino rabbit plan.  They've purchased the parents.  The female is already with child.  They won't kill the ma and pa.  Only the offspring, of which there will be a lot.  The gestation period is like three hours or something.  Nate's chosen path of their demise is to break their little furry necks and then skin them, I guess. 

“Oh.”  I became uncomfortable.  I've been holding them up as a gardening standard, but now I see I will never attain their vision, nor do I even want to.  What I do want is the freedom they've embraced.  They've turned their backyard into a place where their hearts on are display.  No pool and horseshoe pit for them!  They want to be farmers.  They live in the city.  They don't care anymore.

I walked home slowly and thought about everything I'd just seen.  I unhooked my silver fence and took a good look around my backyard and asked myself just who am I?  What am I waiting for?  Do I imagine that my next house, the one with all the land, will be the place where I begin to dig in?  I do and I need to stop.  I need to spend a little money and a lot of time and break the hard ground of my heart.

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