The earth spins on its axis. It spins from moment to moment, from dark to light, from warm to cold, from day to day, week to week, month to month, season to season, year to year, and, in ever longer cycles. Some so long that they last a life time.
The Earth spins on its axis. And while spinning, forces us to react to the light and the dark, to the warm and cold. Most of us do, some don’t. Those who disregard the ancient natural rhythms feel they can play their own tunes. Play with this and that, play with light and dark, play with genes in the pool. That is, until one day the whole shebang will blow up in their collective faces. Our faces.
The Earth spins around its axis. Spins from season to season and we act accordingly. I am trying to retain my grip on the reality of this spin by responding to the cosmic slow waltz movements in my garden. Like last Sunday. Kneeling in the garden pushing bean after bean into the soft sweet smelling earth. This earth which used to be red, but now is black. Rich with organic materials added over years of gardening activity. This earth which smells so sweet. The late winter sun warming it and, like a bread dough proving, smelling almost like bread, fresh from the oven.
Is it the warmth of the sun, the lack of being outside, the fleeting feelings of spring or the light which lures me out. And, an activity I had no interest in during the winter, has, all of a sudden, started to look pretty attractive – the activity of scratching in the dirt.
Here I am reminded of a short story of the most incredible gardener I have ever met. A writer. Spring arrives. She looks out of the back door at the sky. If she thinks it is going to rain, she goes back in and takes all the seeds she has gathered last autumn and places them in a bowl. She walks out of the backdoor and throws the whole lot into the sky, before they have landed she is back writing her books. She only goes out in her garden to collect her daily food. She eats well. In the autumn she collects seeds. I am listening.
I garden a little differently. I enjoy the creation of a different composition each year. An edible, colourful, vitamin rich, beautiful painting. Putting various colours and textures next to one another, creating a background and a foreground, using the paths as lines. The painting is never finished, more like a living work, ever-changing. A bit like life. And just like life, has its active and non active periods.
While walking in Vincent Street recently….., which reminds me. Also recently, I had a dream. It was set in Vincent Street. Someone, overnight and with great care, had removed the bitumen from exactly one central car parking spot and replaced it with a vegetable and flower plot. A spot of bright fresh greens and many strong flower colours. A life mini-painting as it were, sitting in the middle of Daylesford. So much colour in such a monotone area. And making the rest of the car-drab places look like gravestones. People were amusedandannoyed, delightedandangry, excitedandupset. However, in the main most seem to love it. A little investigation discovered that this act of random beauty was perpetrated by a local family. They had lost their garden and, since they had been paying rates in the shire all their lives and did not own a car they figured they also had a right to a parking spot. Not being able to interpret dreams, I am open to suggestions.
Wonder where that came from. Maybe my dream was inspired by the only brightly coloured, and always fresh garden looking spot, in town – Tonna’s fruit and veg shop. Daylesford’s salute to the garden. Thanks for those beautiful and everchanging colours. Or maybe my dream was inspired by the beautiful facade of the Frangos building, showing the street how it could be done.
Back to walking in the street recently, I was asked by some people, who wanted to get into gardening, but knew little about it, if I would write something on the topic. Maybe just how to get started. I promised that, closer to spring, I would. Now, an interesting thing happened. The first thought which came to mind after this request was a bit of gardening I had been part of a long time ago. This was in New Mexico. I was working with a group of Pueblo Indians, learning how to make a specific type of pottery. There were no shops where we could go and buy clay. Therefore, like it had been done for hundreds of years, when clay was needed, we went out to dig it.
Into the truck, bags, spades and a sunny energy, we set off. Not far from the Pueblo (village) we came across a clay pit, dug the clay, placed it in bags and, just before we took off for the return journey, the potter reached into the truck’s cabin, took out a beautifully embroidered leather bag and walked back to the clay pit. After a moment of quiet and with reverence and respect she opened the bag and from it took a few hands of corn which she scattered across the area from which we had taken the clay.
Knowing that corn is a staple and, at the time, was the most important stuff in the life of the Pueblo Indians, I wondered how they could afford to waste it. I asked. She replied: “Thanking mother earth for the gift of clay. Not ever taking it for granted. Taking things for granted is the most damaging attitude we can possibly have. When we start to take something for granted it ceases to exist”
I remember at the time that this small, yet large event in my life, was like a signpost I had come across. It changed the direction of my journey.
Well, I never got to tell you how to start a veggie garden. Maybe later. In the meantime compost your gardening books and hide your spade in the shed. If you do I will tell you how to turn that useless Australian icon of ‘The Lawn’ into something more useful without the use of any tools.
I keep thinking about that veggie plot in Vincent street. Having grave thoughts about it.
Petrus Spronk is a local artist who contributes a monthly column to The Wombat Post.