Angela Bocage

My garden, such as it is

I had roommates in San Francisco who were among the biggest assholes I ever met who gardened. I have an ex-husband who gardened–he practically farmed when he had enough land. I’ve thought for years that most gardeners were so smug, so bourgeois…I never should have met Diane. Actually, I really never should have met Diane. First, my beloved and I got completely lost going to a party at her house in a charming little NJ town. But then, after a last ditch effort to find the right street got us tangled in a one-way street situation, we saw our dear friend the Bass Cat Lady, who’s actually a man but has, shall we say, a great many musical instruments in his abode, walking down a tree-shaded sidewalk with a lovely young lady.  We hailed him, and were introduced to Diane, who didn’t even live on that particular tree-shaded street. Such a lady she is, however, that she never told us her party had in fact been cancelled, due to her and her husband’s worries about their toddler being ill. Instead she gave us directions to her place–we’d been about a block away–entertained us graciously, and showed me her modest, sensible, lovely, no-trace-of-smug-or-bourgeois, plantings. She had yarrow, marigold, sage, sunflower, lavender, cilantro, rosemary…am I remembering everything correctly? Probably not. But I was powerfully reminded of the classes I used to take with Starhawk, Macha NightMare, and Sophia Moondragon, making charms, doing magic of all kinds for very good causes, because a lot of the herbs were the same. So I could pun most excruciatingly that this weirdly destined visit with Diane and her strangely powerfully lovely garden planted the seed (Ouch! Ouch!) so that when I left urban life for the rolling hills of eastern PA I started wanting to plant stuff. Was there ever a lot of land here–compared to the tiny jewels of urban gardens my adopted brother Steven created in the Bay Area and community gardeners created in the Lower East Side and Harlem (sometime I’ll tell you about working on the legal case that didn’t exactly save the gardens but bought them a much-needed year to get their activist act together) the front and back yard of my home with my wife seem like acreage (I think it’s about 3/4 of one). So the first things I planted were a tiny patch of watermelons and a tiny patch of pumpkins. Then I wanted to grow cilantro and parsley. The latter’s an important ingredient in my homemade dog food, after all. Then lavender, for the way it smells and its helpfulness on insect bites. Alyssum for a border. Oh, here’s a cayenne plant, let’s buy it. Those bare shady spots in the front would look a lot better if I could pop these shade-tolerant impatiens in. There was a rack in the grocery store with two kinds of marigolds and this gorgeous ombre-flaming yellow-to-red perennial. And bam, I’ve got six little beds going! And I am havin’ more fun, as they say in my Southern family but with extra syllables. I get to ask my girl if she’s seen how big my pumpkins are getting, and then to her shocked expression announce that I have four! Smash pretty colored tiles to make borders to make weeding easier. And darned if we’re not composting. I’m just happy as a pig in nice clean water. Because there were good memories of gardens, too, long ago. My grandmother’s daffodils, ivy, dogwood, and hydrangeas, the big kitchen garden my grandfather supervised before the university took the land behind our yard, thrilling me no end because he actually hired a guy with a plow pulled by a real live horse. My mother’s garden outside Jefferson City, Missouri, the idyllic years we had nine dogs, four cats, a parakeet and goldfish, because for once we had all the space for them all. She loved just going out and picking fresh corn, fresh spring onions, snap beans, lettuce, yellow squash and especially tomatoes, always trying to convert four-year-old me to the belief that food should look beautiful, that there should be lively natural color on one’s plate. She’d later tell everyone how I thought the spring onions were so pretty I’d often keep one under my pillow.

These are among the things I really want to figuratively keep under a pillow of memory, remember for my children, especially the stubborn magic of my battered, depressed, seemingly-downtrodden mother, all the joy she actually took in so many facets of life. So now, I have two tomato plants, and because of the garden-stuff-amassing ex alluded to in my last post, yesterday I even put these wire frames around ’em to help ’em grow. Well, if it’s not making you ill–I’m not smug, swear to goddess, and if I’m bourgeois where’s my money at?–I’ll tell more about the garden in the future. If all the fun I’m having mosaic-ing little smashy-tile borders doesn’t totally lead-poison us to death or something. Gotta end these posts on a cheerful note.


The great lockout of 2007

As I may’ve mentioned, my spouse has been working like an automaton, so one weeknight recently, I left Philadelphia at a reasonable hour on the train when it looked like she might be there for several more hours. My pup would be lonely and want to get outside. Remembered to call the local taxi guy well in advance of arrival. Made sure there was taxi and train money in my wallet. Completely forgot that since losing my original swipe card at work I didn’t have a house key attached to the replacement. The secret place she hides the extra key was barren. I called her at work and scared her to death with the idle suggestion that I could try to break in, but I knew as well as she does that we can’t afford a glazier at the moment. There was, however, an even more secret key stashed away, she admitted. It was in a coffee can under a certain tree. Buried maybe six inches deep. She’d interred it there shortly after she bought the place eight years ago. The tree or shrub she’d indicated had grown a great deal in eight years, and I once again thanked the spirits that her last girlfriend had been a gardening fiend: we have every tool invented, so I should be able to whack through the thick brush and dig down to the coffee can in no time. After several sessions of brisk aerobic exercise, I was dripping sweat and exhausted and that had proven not to be the case, despite deployment of branch pruners, cultivating tools, shovel, trowel, and the chainsaw-lite she calls a hedge-trimmer. Perhaps after almost a decade of the heavy storms this region endures both in summer and winter, the buried treasure had shifted. The roots of the trees and shrubs in that area of the property had certainly grown thick and tangly. My partner’d asked me to call her when I’d found the key and gotten in, so instead I called her to say I was giving up, but that it was fine: it wasn’t raining, it was a nice summer night, I had a swell book to read; the sound of my bewildered dog barking mournfully from inside the house hurt but I didn’t mention that. In fact, I noticed that my prime concern seemed to be making my darling think being locked out was nothing. She’s so overburdened, dealing with so many worries, I just didn’t want to add more, especially as I’d already freaked her out earlier with my musing about forced entry. So I acted way more cheerful than I felt. When the rain started, I sheltered in the garage, which has a lightbulb so I could continue to read. When the mosquitoes etc. had told all their friends and relations of the human feast in the garage and begun to partake, the rain had finally stopped so I took a walk. Back in the yard, the trees and plants and my newly planted beds of herbs and watermelons and pumpkins and flowers were so fragrant and rain-fresh and lovely, I meditated with them and was so grateful for the beauty of the earth and the plants. Real serenity about it all eluded me, though, because of worries about all the tasks I needed to get done, and because of the sad pup I couldn’t comfort. All in all, it was really fucked up. It was dishonest to pretend to be so cheerful…espcially when what I really wanted was for her to see through the cheerfulness and appreciate my tragic martyrdom in not asking her to stop working and come let me into the house! I was disappointed in myself that my serenity in the situation was such a shallow veneer. Sitting in the garden on a summer evening…how bad could it be? Not that bad, except for one’s imposing a negative interpretation upon it? Nah. Pretty bad, when puppy’s sad and you’ve got 8,932 things to do.

Know where keys are at all times….know where keys are at all times….know where keys are at all times….

Oh, and my beloved is hardly responsible for any of those bad things I recounted in my last post…it seems to me that at work this is sometimes how she’s treated, however. I worry for those I love. Both my spouse and my children often seem so stressed and pressured by demands of life that aren’t even necessarily of their own choosing. I’ll just keep trying to be better support for them.

I have a good idea: buy some art. Also, see a shrink. And remember your keys.

When my beloved says, or I say, the words “I have a good idea,” the other replies without pause: “Uh-oh.” I suppose it’s a way of acknowledging that many things that “seemed like a good idea at the time,” e.g. putting your fist through a door’s glass panel to impress a cute girl at a party (hers) or skipping any interviews with big “corporate” law firms despite being top-10-and-Law-Review cause you just wanted to help the downtrodden (mine) turned out not to be so good.

But this here is a darn good one: Wanna buy some art?! I’ve decided to take commissions again, after having done one just because our friend Peggy is so wonderful I couldn’t say no to her, even though kinda terrified. But it turned out amazingly well!

I just did a huge four-panel cartoon on commission for my Peggy, my wife’s old bandmate, for her main squeeze’s birthday, all about his early history flying at what she has referred to as “a cartoon airport” (so this present was a natcheral, see) whose planes had names like Gimpy, Polky and Turkey and whose flight teacher was so beloved by students that his WASP (a women’s division of the Air Force) students from the fifties and sixties still kept in touch with him for decades. It was a revelation–I don’t think of myself as drawing landscapes and heavy machinery too well, but it ended up absolutely beautiful. Though given excellent photo reference for the planes and the gentlemen in question–thank you ever so much, Peggy–I basically had to plan and write the sequential narrative pulling all the elements together. Using multiple colors of ink, I couldn’t believe how much fun I had. I hadn’t used colored inks in I don’t know how long. I’ll put up some pictures of this and other cool stuff soon. But there you are, I’m ready to take on such challenges.

God, I love my shrink. If you live/work in Center City Philadelphia, are an artist, or have ADD, or love dogs, Dr. Jeffrey Bedrick, who is a real doctor and thus can prescribe the pharmacopeia so necessary to modern urban life, could be great for your mental health and functioning. I’m increasingly skeptical of the knee-jerk dissing of Ritalin, dismissing ADD as a mere scam by big business–haven’t enough large scale studies shown the structural and functional differences in our tricky brains? Hello, hippocampal hypertrophy?! I worked on AIDS News Service back in the day, so nothing’s news to me about the tangled relations between profits, politics, science and the FDA’s pharmaceutical approval process; for many like me, benefits may outweigh risks, and I’m deeply thankful I can get helpful medications. And really really super thankful for the smarts and wisdom of Dr. Bedrick, who’s active in canine rescue!

Finally, let’s all remember our keys. Okay? I’ve kinda run outta time here but far far sooner than my last regrettable posting-lapse, I shall tell you the story of the Great Lockout of 2007 and why my spouse caused Legionnaire’s Disease, the near-extinction of the rare Florida blue-tongued vole, the Indonesian tsunami, and possibly even the hanging chads precipitating W into the residency!

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