following essay was produced as part of my 2013 effort for the
November National Novel Writing Month effort. As such, please
understand that while I did give it a quick review, it has not
gone through the same proofreading and editing I normally try
to give all of the material posted on this site.
always make some mistakes. There are errors to be found throughout
this web site, and many exist despite dozens of attempts to correct
problems. That said, ask that you approach this material in the
spirit intended – a basic thought, slightly worked out and very
informally researched, delivered in the hopes of writing more
than 50,000 words by the end of November.
~ ~ ~
I write this, things in our yard are quieting down. Leaves have
been raked… some trees have been cut, split and stacked… and several
items like chairs and tables have been stored.
is closing in around us.
over the summer, Tigg and I planted a garden. It’s something we’ve
done for many years, and often change things up a bit with different
vegetables and plants. And it was during the process of tending
to the garden that I noticed… again, as I have noticed it so many
times before… the immediate surroundings and developments of nature.
might be the activities of fireflies at night… a vine wrapping
itself around a fence… or even the grass growing. The basic premise
is simple enough… when you are paying attention to events that
are part of planting your garden, you tend to notice more of the
world around you.
least the immediate surroundings.
and I have moved the garden to a couple of places at our house.
first effort… which honestly was the best place for a garden as
far as location… was severally lacking in sunlight. Which, you
know about sunlight, is only one of the major things you need
for a garden.
our first attempt failed, we watched the yard for the places with
the most sunlight and set up a new garden, complete with a two-part
fence that included a regular white picket fence supported by
a wire mesh to keep the critters out. (Which… naturally… doesn’t
work, and the chipmunks and groundhogs and whatever else still
manage to just dig under the fence and get in to our vegetables.)
honestly, I didn’t come here to talk to you about gardens. Instead,
the theme was supposed to be directed toward the grass and trees
and other parts of being outside. Gardening was just a convenient
way to segue into an awareness of what is taking place around
you go for walks?
and I do. Not as often as we’d like… and not as often and Molly
and Gus would like, provided they were being allowed to join us.
we’ve discovered a lot about our neighborhood during those walks.
(And I’m not talking about creepy, “you’ll never believe what
the Dillards and the Parkers are doing” discoveries.)
and I have shared three places in our years together… an apartment,
a rented house, and our current home. The first two, from the
moment you exited the front door, had outstanding areas for walks.
It was safe not only for people, but for a dog or two accompanying
current house has heavier traffic nearby… so you can walk a bit,
but if you plan on varying things at all from day to day, you
eventually need to consider crossing the traffic into other neighborhoods.
In some ways it’s the sunlight for the garden argument all over
again -- we love the house and it’s the best place we’ve ever
shared, and yet we haven’t quite reached perfection just yet.
the way we’ve learned which section of wooded areas belong to
which other property owner… how long it takes to build a dog park…
speaking of dogs, we identified the house that leaves theirs outside
at three in the morning… and so on.
begin waving to those you see regularly. Occasionally you stop
and say hello. (Oh yeah… and you also learn that anyone under
the age of about twenty is fascinated with petting a St. Bernard.
(And if you happen to be walking two of them… well… every other
person walking stops.)
now back to that garden.
had to think about where the hoses should be stored and how to
best set them up. When the summer squash and cucumbers and eggplant
begin to come in… and the tomatoes, lord, the tomatoes… you talk
to family, friends and co-workers to see who you just might be
able to share the abundance with.
year we planted tomatillos. Really. Tomatillos. Ellen did some
work and had the basics designed for what in taste testing was
a fabulous sauce, though we never got to try it for a full dinner.
years ago I was reading a book that talked about when groups actually
cross from what I suppose I’ll refer to as an assembly into the
mark of civilization. I’m not doing the book justice, but the
basic point was simple enough.
are certain things an individual must do to survive. Food… water…
shelter… and you know the drill.
move from individual to group takes place when a second person
joins the first. And so on.
move from group to civilization takes place when the efforts of
only a portion of the whole is required to provide the food needed
for feeding the entire group.
I’m not doing the book any credit in my explanation, and the author
would probably cringe to see me explaining it this way. But when,
say, farming is providing the food needed for a town… and that
farming is accomplished by half of the town’s residents… that
allows the others in the town to explore other professions and
that make any sense?
if it does… maybe you’ll look at things a bit differently the
next time you wander into the general office space and see a box
of zucchini on the conference table. You might not like zucchini.
Maybe you’ve grown more than enough of your own. Still… someone
in your office is willing to share with everyone because they
have more than they need.
that’s part of a civilized society.
that garden… that walk… those encounters with others in your community.
they really can raise your awareness of the things around you.