Today is a happy day: I planted a garden! I want to express my appreciation to my Australian Friends for inspiring me to be more earth-friendly. Every Australian Friend I stayed with had a garden and used a wind/solar powered clothes dryer. As a New Year's resolution, I am doing likewise.
Since becoming a Friend, I have almost always had a garden. I even had one when I lived in Philadelphia. See the poem below, which was recently published in a book of poems entitled Enlivened by the Mystery: Quakers and God (Friends Bulletin, 2009).
Using a solar-powered clothes dryer is relatively new, however. I started using one in Torrance six years ago, and am glad to return to this practice. The Australians have developed one of the world's best clothes lines, called a Hills Hoist, that can open and close like an umbrella, thereby making more room in the backyard. My solar powered clothes dryer is simpler and more Quakerly, as you see.
My landlady says I'm making her place look like the 1940s. Hey, retro is in!
The Surrender Garden
(for Wendell Berry)
I farm a room-sized plot of earth
where once a factory stood.
In spring, I'm met by eager volunteers--
onions and leeks, swiss chard and kale
green and sweet as those in paradise.
But as I turn the soil for the first time,
bricks the size and shape of potatoes
stick in my digger's stubborn teeth.
My brow sweats. My winter-weary muscles ache.
I feel the effects of the fall.
My seeds are scattered to the sound
of kids and cars, trolleys and boom boxes.
I use my hands instead of a digger
because I love to mold and stroke the earth,
to feel it touch my skin.
I sit in my garden like a kid in a sandbox
and think of my Greek grandfather
for whom gardening was no game.
With the sun and rains
weeds rise up like angry peasants
insisting on their squatter's rights.
I can't blame them.
I've been an absentee.
Down on my knees, I make a space
for my seedlings as I pull the weeds
carefully by the roots,
roots that go on and on
like my compulsions and obsessions.
This is the work that never seems to end,
the work my father and his father handed down.
Some evenings I come here simply to sit alone,
and watch things grow.
It's quiet and still as a church.
At the far end of the garden
a woman waters her flowers,
and the smell of wet earth rises
like a prayer, an offering,
into the darkening sky.