So much time passes so fast in these baby days. Yet this warm almost-winter drags. In stolen moments, when rocking, say, waiting for sleep (his), I mull over gardens yet to be born. The tough one will grow in the hell strip by our street, the soft one in our own little yard, and a generous one our shared community plot, which still feeds us kale in January. How will this possibly happen in amid all the little kid change I barely stay at the heels of now? By small handfuls, if need be. I imagine our sweet curious busy toddler scooping dirt and piling stones nearby. He knows what kale is, but there is so much more.
I get a poem in my mailbox every day. This, along with the remembered smell of mountain mint, Eric Bachman low on the stereo during a late-coming toddler nap, this is the thinking on the South Side today.
by Carl Sandburg
Blossoms of babies
Blinking their stories
On the dusk and the babble;
Little red gamblers,
Handfuls that slept in the dust.
Summers of rain,
Winters of drift,
Tell of the years;
And they go back
Who came soft-
Back to the sod,
To silence and dust;
October (section I)
by Louise Glück
Is it winter again, is it cold again,
didn’t Frank just slip on the ice,
didn’t he heal, weren’t the spring seeds planted
didn’t the night end,
didn’t the melting ice
flood the narrow gutters
wasn’t my body
rescued, wasn’t it safe
didn’t the scar form, invisible
above the injury
terror and cold,
didn’t they just end, wasn’t the back garden
harrowed and planted–
I remember how the earth felt, red and dense,
in stiff rows, weren’t the seeds planted,
didn’t vines climb the south wall
I can’t hear your voice
for the wind’s cries, whistling over the bare ground
I no longer care
what sound it makes
when was I silenced, when did it first seem
pointless to describe that sound
what it sounds like can’t change what it is–
didn’t the night end, wasn’t the earth
safe when it was planted
didn’t we plant the seeds,
weren’t we necessary to the earth,
the vines, were they harvested?
Section I is reprinted from October by Louise Glück, published by Sarabande Books, Inc. Copyright © 2004 by Louise Glück. All rights reserved.
The sky above our yard is alive with dragonflies and chimney swallows and warm rain falling in a curtain straight down, and I never expected to be eating rain-washed raspberries in the South Side of Chicago.
In a week, one year after our nervous arrival, we move 7 blocks north, out of this 117-yr-old greystone into something spanking new by comparison, and ours to do with what we will.
I will miss the kind, generous, welcoming neighbors we now cherish as friends, the berries in fall, the shops and park around the corner, and one glorious kitchen. But I am digging up the Katherine Hodgkin irises that I didn’t kill after all in the move, and going to prepare a spot for them, and us, to set down new roots.
ITEM: We are officially members of the Woodlawn community garden. If that is even its name. There is no sign, no contact information, nothing formal about it at all, so getting in was a matter of stalking to find anyone who might be willing to part with a phone number. Seems it’s a loose affiliation of academics, longtime locals (and babies). In a stroke of either very good luck or just good timing, we secured two adjoining plots, and will garden right next to our real life next-door neighbor.
I got my start veggie gardening at Austin’s Sunshine Community Garden, and loved the freedom to create, the weirdos, the workdays, and the space as much as the lettuce and tomatoes. We’ll see how this goes, but one thing is for sure: access to very local, organic, affordable vegetables is looking up! Access to the community: seems it was easier than it looked.
We left 5 days ago in early spring weather, but arrived home late today, the first day of spring, to find the season nearly passed us by. At 84 degrees, this is the 7th straight day of at or over record temps in Chicago. The same is forecast for tomorrow. No one wants to contemplate the summer to follow such a spring.
Tulips mingle with hellebores. Magnolias are in full blossom! And our neighbor’s cherry tree bloomed today. We marveled at it from the back porch, with a cold glass of wine after dark. I know this is happening all over (the phenology, but maybe the wine, too), but the shared experience makes it no less startling.
Chicago is USDA Hardiness Zone 6a, and the average last frost date is April 25.