Thursday, March 17, 2016

on mud and growing things

The yard has melted.

The dogs bring in mud.

It gets under their nails and wedges between the pads of their feet. I wipe their paws every time they come in. There is a pile of muddy rags by the door: old cloth diapers, receiving blankets, t-shirts.

The mud comes off in streaks and in clumps. It dries on the entryway rug and sticks to everyone's socks. It clings to the dogs' paws despite the wiping.

Mud spreads all about the house
and I know it is spring.

I know it is spring and I walk through the house in bare feet. The floor boards shift and creak under my skin: a sensation that was muted by socks and slippers all winter. It feels good to let my toes air out. Cooped up all winter has left them red and irritated. The air is an invisible balm. Dirt sticks to the arches of my feet but I do not mind. Terribly.

I sweep and sweep the kitchen, the living room, the hallway, collecting great piles of dirt and dog hair multiple times a day. My youngest daughter interrupts this task and says, "I'll do it for you, Mama." I let her. She hums The Imperial March to herself and I take on a different chore. Dishes. I watch out the window while I rinse and stack. The dogs are playing chase out there. Suds, rinse, stack, now they're barking at a neighbor. Suds, rinse, stack, the puppy is digging a hole in my would-be garden. I shout out the window at him -- Hey!

and he looks up at me -- What?

before going back to work.

Last year that part of the yard was an eyesore. Overgrown with anything and everything that cast down roots. One day I took action and my husband's grub ax and hacked it all away, exposing roots and black earth. I piled the weeds in the wheel barrow and raked the space clean. This took a long time. John could have done it in half the time but it was my project, my idea, my garden. He let me be.

I filled the empty space with a random assortment of transplanted greenery from friends willing to divide plants from their established gardens. I didn't really care what I was putting in; I just wanted to fill the space. I put up a cheap wire fence and then let it go.

I let it go.

Weeks passed. I watered the new plants a few times and inspected their progress, but I didn't do much else. Then we went on vacation and more weeks passed. By the end of the summer, it was an overgrown mess: weeds in all the empty spaces so it wasn't clear what I had planted intentionally and what had just sprung up.

I was disappointed in myself for not keeping up with it, not weeding, not properly identifying the intentional plants in the first place, not planning anything at all. I'm not sure what I really expected to happen. That mere intention could manifest something real from the folds of my imagination? I wanted a picture-book butterfly garden but put in only enough effort to yield the look of an abandoned lot. Not what I had in mind.

But winter came and put everything to bed. It's a blank slate now.

A blank slate pocked with holes that I can't stop the new puppy from digging.

I'm glad he's digging there, though. If it was in the middle of the lawn he would be causing a real problem. But he's just digging in the garden. The "garden." A space I'd like to prettify but can't commit to caring for.

Maybe the puppy will bury something good in one of his holes. Maybe something completely fantastic will come up.

Like a unicorn.

Or a novel I wrote.