Veni, Vidi, Ventus --
The randomly chaotic and crafty scribblings of a deranged, wannabe artist allowed too many colours in her Crayon box.

Surgeon General's Warning: Some content of "From Pooka's Crayon" may not be suitable for: work, blue-haired little old ladies, the politically-correct, rabid moonbats, uptight mothers, priests, chronic idiots, insurance claims agents, Democrats, children, small furry quadropeds from Alpha Centauri, or your sanity.

Monday, April 14, 2003

Stars and candles and growing things

An oddity about me that is currently relevant: I usually garden barefoot. I *like* getting dirty, I like feeling the soil and smelling it. I like the sweating and the work.

I do NOT, however, like ... STEPPING ON A THISTLE. I got lucky, I only caught it with my big toe, but mother of mercy, that STINGS. Ow. Ow ow. More Roundup to be used liberally tomorrow. I hoestly can't believe how anyone could let a lawn get this bad. The yard is a fabulous size, and the idea of being unable to freely move through it is just mind-boggling. Half the attraction of this house is the size of the yard. I *NEED* to go barefoot in my yard. NEED it.

Earth mother. Hedgewitch. Tree-hugging dandelion sniffer. Oh, I've heard them all at some time or another. ;) I think it's funny, because it's all somewhat desperately true. There are few times and places where I'm happier than just being out in the fresh air, covered in dirt and making things grow.

No place closer to heaven than having the heavy earthy thick scent of tomato plants. Tomatoes are all right, I like them, but don't really NEED them or seriously crave them. The plants, however ... the vines. God speaks from them, I tell ya. I picked up two patio tomato plants today, and could hardly keep my nose out of them. Memory lane. That smell was a part of my childhood, watching my grandfather and his wonderful garden. Just brushing past the tomato plants released that smell, and it can bring tears to my eyes if I'm a bit sensitive at the time.

My green thumb came through him. Another oddity, considering there is no shared DNA. I'm adopted, and yet, some of my strongest personality traits have come through association with him. Poppie. He's been Poppie for longer than I can remember. Fields of heavy red and purple poppies along the fence of his yard, brilliant and gently fragrant. Roses of every colour and variety, the sweet tiny tufts of antique tea roses, climbers, and showy masterpieces. Pansies, petunias, lilies, flowers I can no longer even begin to name. I learned plant ID from this man. I learned to identify flowers, weeds, noxious things to avoid, the shapes of certain bird species, and the names of the birds themselves. This man has forgotten more about the world around us than most modern children will ever be able to learn.

When we lived in Washington, I didn't do much with vegetables. Strawberries mostly, but zinnias everywhere, marigolds, roses. Huge fragrant lilacs that filled my house as well as my yard when they bloomed. The scent of the lilacs lingered for a wonderfully long time when cut. My babies.

The military moved us back to Texas, and that put us in range of Wonder Man again. As we went down to Houston for the obligatory family adore the children visit, I carefully went through his yard with him at my side, picking choice stems from rosebushes to cut and root. Not a one died.

Moving here, to an apartment, killed me in a way. I was out of touch, there was nothing to help ground me, nothing to soothe.

I have a confession to make: I love weeding. I really do. Yes, it's mindless and tedious, but it's something that Always Needs To Be Done. Gently easing the weeds from around tender sprouts and watching the sprouts cheerfully grow stronger is a wonderful feeling. Doing something so basic and easy is intensely calming for me. I don't have to worry as much about fighting my body, and the distraction manages to ease the pain, at least for a little while.

Okra itches. So does crookneck squash. The spines scratch and sting. I know that feeling intimately, having wandered through the garden in search of ripe vegetables that my grandmother would promptly cook for us. And I don't mind it at all. I've an obsession for yellow squash to this day, cooked the way she did it: onion, sliced squash, cracked black pepper, butter ... and a touch of sugar. I'm drooling again, darnit.

But the garden is no longer there.

Age is catching up with the man who once caught me as I leapt from the top of a persimmon tree, convinced that I could fly. Age has taken away the man that carried me through woody fields on his back, picking The Perfect Blackberry as I pointed them out quite imperiously from his shoulders. A series of strokes have crippled the Superman of my childhood, the man who, when told by my mother not to let us go in the lake, casually turned aside as we "accidentally fell in."

It's hard to visit now. So hard to see Poppie unable to do the things he loves so much. His mind is still sharp as a whip, but his body has betrayed him. Another thing we hold in common. We raced with our canes one afternoon while visiting my aunt. He won. Go figure. Our bodies are fighting us, but for the first time in my life, I see something beating him. It hurts, oh God it hurts to see him like that. He has had to hire someone to even mow the lawn.

With our new house, I pick up the torch.

My children will learn, as I had learned. They'll absorb the appreciation for life and growing things, and learn which plants you can eat, which can hurt you, which ones need to be pulled. They'll learn how to prepare the soil, how to plant, how to pick and the joy of taking food you have grown yourself into the house and having it for dinner.

I miss him. I miss the man he was, and still deeply love the man he is. My children never knew him before age took its toll, but they already know that Poppie is the man that taught Mama to ease the seeds into the ground and coax food out of them.

Poppie, thank you.

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