A Few Garden Thoughts, July

  • There is too much to do. So do what you see how to do. As you work, you’ll see how to do other things.
  • You’re working with roots, not leaves. The leaves are what’s stressful, they’re what you see, but they aren’t the real matter: push them aside and follow the stem, and where it touches the ground, feel around, grab the other stems rising up from the same point and pull, gently, until they come free roots and all. 
  • There is no wasted effort. If you are getting in the car to go run errands, but see a young weed without deep roots right there in arms reach and you have the few seconds it takes, reach down and pull it out. Things are now better than they were.
  • There’s a lot of stuff “to do” but mostly you just need to let things be. Water. Sun. Composted manure. Some basic maintenance to keep the bad actors away. That and time is all the garden needs. So help out and then let it be.
  • The Beav likes potatoes. I tried three sorts. But I didn’t hill them in time and they laid down. This doesn’t seem to bother them. I haven’t weeded enough and the grass is thick between the plants. This also doesn’t seem to bother them. Potato bugs have descended and I’ve tried to pull them off, have caught a lot of them in the first wave as they were mating, but I think I’ve lost this battle. They are going to be thick on the plants for the rest of summer whatever I do. (Because I won’t do chemical pesticide.) But this is okay. I’ve now seen how potatoes work and they are working fine this year despite the grass and bugs — they are tall and densely colored. When I plant next year’s potatoes next year, because I’ll plant them again, I’ll know better what to watch out for. So this year has been more than worthwhile.

What Opening Looks Like

I’ve realized too late that it would have been cool to keep the Government’s various info sheets as they were released as a reminder of how restrictions changed over time for when the slow stages have congealed into a simpler memory of the “the Troubles.” Alas, I didn’t think of it in time.

In the spirit of “better late than never,” here’s what a late-stage guidelines info sheet looks like.

The Times of Crisis

The troubles move at their own times. There are waves of infection. There are also waves of reaction. They don’t however move together the way I’d expected. The virus continues its steady march but what we feel is mostly about what we’ve been feeling. The facts seem to have little to do with it.

Here things are opening up bit-by-slow-bit and seem to be under control. Yet my own reactions, while rooted here in Quebec, are also tied up in my worries about the situation in Florida and Georgia which (as I feared) is spiraling out of control.

Emotionally, this is a bit like standing with one foot on a dock and the other on a loose boat. It’s not the bit of stable ground that matters.

Required Viewing

Today’s thought: Ink Master and RuPaul’s Drag Race are, despite surface differences, the same show about the same subject. They should be watched together, side-by-side, one episode of one, then one episode of the other.

iVegan

Walking today it occurred to me that I interact with the internet the way vegans interact with food: intensely but through difficult commitments and principles that easily isolate and limit possibilities.

It’s hard to hang out with a vegan because everything becomes an issue. In this, I speak from experience: I was vegan for a large swath of my university years and know how much of a pain I was.

And now, like a vegan, I hold to my internet principles deeply enough that even when I say “fuck it, I’m just going to give in and get an instagram account so I can keep up with friends,” I don’t make it past the create account page. 

In this, I’m not unlike the vegan who decides that, dammit, they’re going to have a burger at their friend’s BBQ but can’t manage to take a first bite.

Distraction as Metaphor

We talk a lot about distraction these days, and recently a few thoughts popped into my head about what our use of the term implies. I’m jotting them down for later without any sense of how true they are.

It seems to me that “distraction” implies that:

  • there is a specific, meritorious activity or object of action from which we are distracted;
  • this meritorious activity is somehow not pleasurable enough, present enough, attractive enough, interesting enough, rewarding enough or engaging enough to hold out attention;
  • this is because, presumably, that action’s or object’s merit is somehow subtle enough or occulted enough or ephemeral enough to be continually at risk of being lost or overlooked or forgotten;
  • that our instincts don’t respond to or point toward merit;
  • that love or enthusiasm or pleasure are not trustworthy accounts of or guides to merit.

In other words, “distraction” implies the failure of the good to attract attention and the failure of my nature to recognize or to desire that good unaided. “Distraction” suggests my feelings betray me and cannot be trusted.

This feels wrong and living by it feels self-hating.

Cross Post: Criterion’s Pride Schedule

New post at Speaks at Home.

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Criterion has published their June schedule, which includes a series of queer films for Pride Month that actually has me pretty excited. It’s a great list of things with plenty I haven’t seen.
There’s a lot there, but the ones that interest me are:

  • Double Feature: The Red Tree (Paul Rowley) and A Special Day (Paul Rowley)
  • A series of Cheryl Dunye’s works
  • Parting Glances
  • But I’m a Cheerleader (Jamie Babbit)
  • The “Queersighted: Turn the Gaze Around” curation materials
  • Another Country (Marek Kanievska)
  • Tarnation (Jonathan Caouette)
  • Olivia (Jacqueline Audry)

Still, despite all that goodness, the entry on the schedule that has me counting days is the “Three by Araki” series, which includes Totally F***ed Up, a film I’ve seen multiple times but only on crap VHS or on YouTube. I LOVE this film and the idea of seeing a clean Criterion-quality version of it’s camcorder scrappiness has me losing my shit.

And also, obviously,

(yes, yes, yes,)

My Own Private Idaho.

Cross Post: Errands Under Lockdown

New post at Speaks at Home.

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My last post, once I saw it online, startled me with how little it captured the experience of running the errands I spoke about during the COVID pandemic rather than normal times.
Quebec was still under lockdown when I went out, even if the plan for reopening is now under way. The Beav and I have been strict about following the orders: we’ve gone out for groceries, bought as much as we could when we did, and stayed home otherwise. And this since March 13th. It turns out though that bike shops and hardware stores are, along with grocery stores, “essential services.”

So my day started with me standing outside the bike shops wearing a mask, my bike in a rack and my explaining to a worker who was two metres away, what I thought needed to be done on the bike and him telling me he’d call if something else came up as they worked. They’d call in a week to let me know when to pick it up. I never set foot in the store.

At the grocery store, I stood in line, spaced two metres apart waiting for one of the fifty people inside to leave so the next person in line could go into the foyer, wash their hands at the sink, take a cleaned cart and go inside to shop. Arrows on the floor tell you which direction you can walk up the aisles in order to minimize the chance of getting too close to someone. When it was time to check out, there was another line: I stood on my circle waiting for the circle in front of me to clear off, then moved up. When I was at the front of the line, I waited until an employee sent me to a cashier who was empty and had finished cleaning their station from the last customer.

At the hardware store, it was just like at the grocery store, only harder to manage because how do you follow the arrows when you can’t know which plants you’re going to get until you’ve seen all that they have on offer?

These three errands took me nearly four hours.

Cross Post: This Year’s Garden

A new post at Speaks at Home.

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Early Wednesday, May 20, I got up and dropped off my bike at the shop to be serviced for the summer. Afterwards, I made our grocery run and then stopped by Rona to buy the basics for the garden. I hadn’t planned on planting everything that day and certainly didn’t plan on putting everything in all in one go. But once I had the seedlings, I didn’t see any reason to wait.

Five hours later, I was done, exhausted and watering. (And the next day, I could barely move I was so sore from all the squatting and standing and squatting and standing.)

So that I have some notes for later, this is this year’s garden.

Tomatoes

Big Beef

The same variety I’ve planted the past few summers. Thirty plants are arranged in four rows in the space behind the potatoes. I over planted in case I lost plants again this year but also because I’m thinking about canning rather than freezing the tomatoes we don’t eat.

We ate the last of the the frozen tomatoes from last year around the same time that I planted the garden.

Asparagus

  • Jersey Giant
  • Mary Washington

Planted in four short rows arranged in an L-shape behind the rhubarb.

Potatoes

  • Warba (early)
  • Kennebec (mid-season)
  • Russian Blue (late)

Planted in two rows along the long south side of the garden. The early season are planted in both rows close to the road. The mid-season are planted in the middle. The late season are planted at the west end of the rows.

Garlic

Planted in two short rows along the west side of the garden running from the rhubarb to the front.

A Solitary Eggplant

It’s not hot enough long enough to really grow eggplant here, but we love eggplant and managed to get eight off of one plant last year. I lost the ticket identifying the variety but this plant — if it bears anything — will bear a long skinny fruit with some write mottling on the skin when ripe. I planted it in the corner where the potatoes meet the garlic.

Cross Post: Embarrassed

New post at Speaks at Home.

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Yesterday I was going through some old posts on my blog for the first time in ages and what I realized reading was how clearly nervous I was about what I was writing. Posting to the open web was new to me, and once what I was doing had sunk in (it took awhile), I became very very self-conscious about what I was watching, about what I was reading, and about what I revealed by sharing my thoughts about these things honestly.

Reading now and knowing what I actually think and feel about what I logged, I can see how often I hedged or struck a knowing or ironic pose, how often I took cheap shots at disreputable works I enjoyed, and in dozens of other ways struck just to the side of truthfulness.

Years ago in a class, Eric Savoy, drawing on remarks by Henry James, defined “embarrassment” as the position of having said too much yet without having managed to say what you meant. My nervous logs — and not all of them are — are embarrassed in exactly this sense. They reveal passions without sharing love.

Fall 2020

The announcement has been made and the decision now official: classes at my college will be online in the Fall. Figuring out how to make that work has now become a summer project.

New Normal

Talking about a “new normal” a few weeks ago felt like hysteria, but it seems pretty clear that many of the changes in daily life brought on by the COVID pandemic will be with us for the rest of the year.

The most obvious example is the rumblings about online courses in the Fall. Nothing’s been announced officially yet, but a few days ago I accepted that I should begin thinking about what classes given entirely online would look like. The difference between a course that finishes online and one offered there exclusively is like the difference between a whale and a fish: many of their similarities are only apparent and fall away when you pay closer attention. I’ve only just started and already I’m reconsidering things I took to be fundamental.

So with the promise of months of social distancing to come and plenty of work to do along the way, I’m grateful to be out of the city far enough to be able to sit outside watching the river or to take walks around the fields. I’m locked down but not confined, and I’m close enough to the natural world to see the muskrat swimming along the banks of the river or the mourning doves nesting under a corner of the roof or the squirrel braving the road to get at the stand of trees beyond the pavement.

It helps to see these creatures moving along at a familiar rhythm in a world that they take to be largely unchanged.

Walking

It was sunny and warm, so I spent the morning walking the dirt and gravel roads between the farmers’ fields.

The snow is gone and the world is a soft golden brown. Wild grasses throw shadows in the wind and grey-green waters run snake-wise, cutting streams through the clay.

And yet…

Our lives are upside down, and yet:

  • hundreds of geese floated by on the river today, resting for a moment on their regular trip north;
  • the ladybugs that infest the yard and cover the windows of the house are back, right on schedule;
  • the crocus are blooming, more this year than we’ve ever had;
  • the robins are collecting straw and twigs and each morning they are in the garden, heads cocked to the side, listening for the worm that’s crawled too close to the surface in search of warming soil.

The world beyond us moves to its familiar rhythms. It’s a scary time, but things will be okay.