Sunday, May 28, 2006

Pepper sprouts

Oddly, perhaps, there is great pleasure in the mundane acts of life. I washed the car and van today. The car has been hand-waxed. My 17-month old Inventor helped with the tasks. Quite adorable, I confess, to watch my two-feet straw-haired (don't ask me!) boy wander around behind me with a dirty rag, swatting at the vehicles, as I scrub with soap bubbles, then do my best imitation of the karate kid: "wax on... wax off".

My garden is ever a joy for me. As an undergraduate, at the tiny college where I spent a year as a freshman for the second time (it was my third year of college, but I had taken a few years off), I worked as an apprentice gardener, on campus, which essentially meant, someone else was getting paid to leave me running rampant with pruners and a rake, while I received a pittance. But I loved it: playing in the dirt, seeing the results of my actions in the presentation of nature, knowing that a week later it would revert in its own way to the chaos that pervades... but my mark would remain, even if fading, for quite some time. I subscribed to gardening magazines, and experimented.

When I moved on to my third (and final) stint as a freshman, attending Massive Midwestern State University, I took that passion for gardening with me. I started a landscaping business of my own, beginning with a used lawnmower, stuffed in the trunk (sticking out) of my 1982 Honda Prelude. Every client I added, I bought a new piece of equipment or tool. By the time I was done, and ready to move on, four years later, I had several part-time employees, a year-old Ford F-150, and a truckload (or two) worth of tools and machinery. All except the hand tools have since been sold.

The pleasure that comes from transforming a spare patch of land into a thriving, vibrant jungle of plants and insects, mushrooms and worms, never diminishes. The joy of watching the tiny volunteer sprouts pop up their heads, unfurl their dicotyledons, is something that simply can't be adequately conveyed to someone who has never experienced it.

I wish all my life were as rewarding as these things. I wish to modify my comments from a few days ago: I know my father did not fail in life, though many of the accolades and achievements I hoped he would have had, escaped him. Indeed, I realize that accolades and attainments often fall on those least worthy. There is a deep scar that mars my soul where once I believed hard work and diligence would be rewarded. I feel cheated, that so many told me that finishing my dissertation would make all the difference in the job search, that having those three trailing letters would make a world of difference. They did not.

But then, I have scars. They color my physique. The pain is momentary, though the memory endures through these rememberances. They are nothing to be feared. My way is to believe that they are nothing to be hidden either. I wear my heart on my sleeve, it is true, and you my faithful readers and friends are granted access to my trails. I know these things will resolve, in their own way, even if I have little faith in a master plan, or Master Planner. I like the chaos of the world, its mysteries. I don't need the answers, so much as the questions.

I suppose the lesson for me to learn, is that I would do the things I do (as I do) even without the accolades, because these things are true to me. We do the right thing, at least some of us, not simply because of the outward rewards, but because of the inner ones. Questions for me need asking, the paths those questions uncover need treading. Sure, at times it's lonely, wondering when that trodding will lead me to a destination. I think of those (like Ivan Klima) who suffered under totalitarian governments, denied their proper vocations; yet they survived, they endured, they achieved. With patience, I will too.

In the meantime, enjoy my pepper sprouts. I do.


timna said...

I wish you could come over and just help me get started on the flower beds and what-used-to-be the garden.

Ironic that I was not putting down roots here and now there is a job here and I guess it's time to plant.

Hope you're finding much joy in everything else and that a job comes along.

Aspiring Academic said...

I love gardening. Before we moved to Graduate School town - I participated in an organic community garden. I enjoyed every minute of my time there. Now that Mr. Aspiring and I are in GST, I am stuck gardening in pots on my porch... but at least it is something. My favorite amazing plant story is the carrot - one time when I was thinning out my row of carrots (the little guys were no bigger than a piece of string) I noticed that I could smell carrots - so I tried eating one of these little strings - and it tasted just like carrot. It was so amazing to me. Enjoy your garden - it is one of the great thrills of summer.