Wednesday, May 19, 2004

Cutworms and tomatillos and things Cutworms. S...

Cutworms and tomatillos and things

Cutworms. Strange life for these grubs, eating away under the sod, making a space in perpetual darkness. I've been tearing away chunks of lawn still. Mary has a great love of a plant I don't know, variously called persian jewels, nigella, or love-in-a-mist. So yesterday with the sifting out of rhizomes and lopping off tree roots and piling sod in the back of our lot. A half moon of new fluffy earth next to our front walk and we'll see if the tiny black seeds like it enough. And the chinese lanterns. We popped in a bunch of annuals to hold the eye until her seeds sprout.

Chinese lanterns are a fun way to acknowledge family relationships among plants. Consider a tomatillo, papery husk and yellow seed disks. Consider the same genus growing wild round here, called ground cherry, Physallis virginiana, it's like looking at fraternal twins. How can the eye not see the similarities to a pepper seed, an eggplant leaf? How can the skunky funk of these nightshade leaves, these tomato leaves, this potato, how can these olfactory threads not take one up a branching family tree wondering what mutation, what diverted river, what bit of climate change, what long flying vector--what caused the small estrangement which caused speciation? I love the diversity of the earth, even the countless asters with their constant flux on the slippery quick edge of evolution.

I should go find out what hard bodied adult does a cutworm become? Always just thought of them in terms of the curses of groundskeepers. Can't believe I don't know what the adult form is. We haven't killed many. Mary won't touch them; she passes them to me on the tip of her trowel. Just piling them with the leaves and sod at the back of our yard. Maybe they'll make it. Maybe robins will eat them and be glad for the unexpected protein. What would be able to eat these things, living as they do, locked in the soil? Moles, I suppose, maybe large burrowing beetles, though I really have no idea. I wonder if they are native to this place, to North America I mean. The grass under which they are living isn't. Poa pratensis, Kentucky blue grass, is a European cool season grass, and corrupted as my lawn is with dandelions and plantain, it is mostly Poa. Well, I might as well go find out.

Saturday, May 15, 2004

The Fugees and Saturday dawn. Washing sheets at 5...

The Fugees and Saturday dawn. Washing sheets at 5:30 a.m. is very peaceful and satisfying to hang them on the line. Snapping pillow cases and fresh mist. Outside this window watching convergence of dew point and sudden opaque fog over the river. There is Virginia waterleaf blooming and Solomon's seal unfurling at a foot and a half. I dug small hills for Mary's pumpkins yesterday. May be too late, may not. Depends on the year and the angles of the sun. We don't know each square foot of this land yet. Tearing up sod this week, setting in prairie perennials. Hopeful plants, perennials, trusting in the future.

This cup of coffee is almost empty. Have to eat and hop a bus, class at nine.

Sunday, May 2, 2004

Sunrise, Birds, Old Writings and things Somethi...

Sunrise, Birds, Old Writings and things

Something I never expected to see, and can't explain: a mourning dove being hounded and dive-bombed, chased all over these blooming oaks just after dawn. Thinking, no, that can't be a dove, must be a kestrel or some such. What could a dove do to incite the ire of a sparrow, don't know what kind? Surprised by a common chipping sparrow working the edge of my front walk. The bur oaks and white oaks up here are heavy with pollen. When I left D.C., oaks were already done and leafed out. I wonder if I brought back any pollen in my hair, or my clothes. In my lungs? Could I sneeze and bring southeastern genetic material to these northern trees? Unlikely to be an unwitting vector for a wind pollinated species, but who knows.

I just noticed, the sun rise fills the river valley first.

Cleaning up papers at my desk here, or making a show anyway. There was something I wrote years ago in response to a very small glass of wine. Wished I had it when in D.C., as my mother informed me it was my father's favorite things I'd ever written, father's day cards and elementary school essays notwithstanding. I tried to recall something of it when speaking at his service, but just found a paper copy. He never mentioned to me that it meant anything to him, but there you are, or rather, here:

I will never forget the dream I had about Bongo. The world grey and static, a frozen space and my dead dog rising from the ground to protect me. The sky was the color of olive dust, but so painfully silent.

I will never forget my first taste of Moscato d'oro. Straw colored wine. In the wind I drank the sweet humid fungus of the turf. In the glass I stepped on the plum stones of the birds' leavings. In the glass I smelled the dust of my grandfather's body. In the glass my feet sank in the greasy cool mud under the magnolia trees. In the glass I drank the harsh voices of the scrub jays and the ethereal perfume of an April orange blossom. In the glass my limbs were thin and brown and my lungs had no limit. In the glass I was making love to every moment that ever felt good in my whole life. In the glass everyone knew I loved them and nobody was dead. In the glass I chewed raw almonds under the slow moving trees which made them. In the glass I burned piles of eucalyptus leaves and buried my feet in the fine hot ash. I stood a little beyond the kitchen window in the furrow with my grandfather and spit muscat seeds at the sun. They were the best, we agreed, the best possible grape. There is no flavor which compares, no sweetness so primitively sophisticated, so muskily primal. My grandfather's favorite, my father's favorite, and mine.

I worry that when I die my jury will consist of insects. I will face a panel of crippled ants and tomato hornworms and de-winged flies.

Completely inconvenient. Fat with sugar and seeds, the muscat is not a dainty grape. It necessitates spitting. It is so good to eat that politeness will not survive, nor will conversation. It is a food of those who will eat with silent companions or will eat alone, who will stop eating only when the perfume in their heads threatens to steal their very lives. Eat the muscat and you know, without question or embarrassment or pride that you are god and the grape is god and the moment is god. The grape is your mother. The grape is your shaman. The grape is your confessor and in its embrace sin withers from lack of ambition. After so many years of working the soil I think a man turns to wind.

There was only enough wine left in the bottle for one small glass. Would I ever find another bottle? Would I ever feel that good again? It's exciting to think that you just might.

So I guess I did remember some of that well enough for Larry. It's funny, to me anyway, that way back then I was thinking about the death of Larry's father. Thinking about the time when I lived on the farm after he died. I was having strange dreams. The wine was Moscato d'oro by Mondavi. A couple fingers left in the last bottle of a case forgotten in the bottom of a cooler at a restaurant where I worked. I think it was a 1990, or 91, though when I found it, 1996 maybe? I did find and buy that wine again, but no doubt it was never quite the same.

Saturday, May 1, 2004

Back home, drinking coffee, watching Saint Paul gr...

Back home, drinking coffee, watching Saint Paul green up. There is some warbler working an ash tree in my backyard. Also a black cat with white throat jumping early nettles and harassing a squirrel. Yellow rumpeds, now several of them. Cold morning, but they seem to be doing well gleaning, one is doing a bit of hawking. A great blue heron going by, following the river. Though this house has problems innumerable, being on a bluff, overlooking the river valley, with open sky over the riparian corridor is a great compensation.

This Saturday morning listening to The Garden of Zephirus: Courtly songs of the early fifteenth century, Gothic Voices with Christopher Page director. This is one of my all time favorite recordings. It's one of those rare things which survives association. My mother gave it to me one Christmas when I was still living with my ex who killed herself. I played it non stop for a certain period and she too was very fond of it. Despite this, these voices singing very simple love songs, ballads and rounds move me into dreamtime and peacetime and open source godness. Chocolate melting on the tongue, strawberry kisses, warm sun soaking into skin. I love this music.

J'atendray tant qu'il vous playra

A vous declarer ma pensee,

Ma tres chiere dame honouree;

Je ne say s'il m'en desplayra.

I will wait as long as you wish

before declaring my thoughts to you,

my most dear and honoured lady;

I do not know if I will suffer for it.

I said they were very simple songs, but interesting that love songs haven't changed much in six hundred years.

Getting used to the idea of being here, rhythyms and smells and Mary, phone calls and mail. This city is so different from Washington, it's like being in a different country.