And really, we don’t know what Paul Simon meant when he sang about the “sounds of silence” because life on Snob Hill is usually peaceful and relatively quiet, but never silent.
People speak about the chirping of birds as the harbinger of spring (but honestly, don’t birds sing year round?) (on the other hand, tulips announce themselves with color rather than sound) (though maybe, like dog whistles, our ears don't hear them)).
We know summer by the sound of the lawn mower and leaf blower operated by our imposing neighbor Mr. Vonk across the street. Mr. Vonk lets us know when the grass is dry enough to be cut (at least twice a week or more, it seems), when our leaves have invaded his expansive personal air space, and when all weeds need whacking. We look forward to the day when, like one of those hurdy-gurdy one-man-bands, Mr. Vonk will don all his mechanized equipment and mow and blow and whack simultaneously. If this occurs, we promise to provide some proof, like one of those herky jerky films of Sasquatch (apparently only the palsied camera-challenged are eligible for an audience with Pope Gigantopithecus) .
We know that autumn is upon us by the sound of acorns falling on the plastic (call it “composite material” all you want, but it’s still plastic) carport that our neighbors attached to their house like a piece of mismatched Lego. To gank a phrase from an old commercial, we wish they would “leggo that Lego.” Such a structure is unbecoming of Snob Hill.
As autumn approaches, we lie in bed, especially in the morning, and listen as the accords begin to drop – propelled at first slowly, prompted by slight winds, and then building into a crescendo as the temperatures cool and they are stripped by gusts from the North. It is as if the Mother Oak finally decides the time has come for her acorn children to go out a play…permanently. And try to not to get under foot!
All of this is leads us to our current feelings of good riddance toward our gardens, especially the vegetable garden. Sadly, our mantra, as we stand before them, surrounded by the plunk of freedom-seeking, plummeting acorns, the steroidal whine of Mr. Vonk’s leaf disturber, and the obnoxious natterings of the amateur announcer from the nearby stadium that describes the silly scurryings of third-tier college athletes, is simply, “Just die already.”
We have been known to be autumnally melancholic, morose even, as we contemplate the gathering gloom, the abbreviation of daylight (and increasing Vitamin D deficiency) and the inexorable slide into winter. We are reputed to be Fall People, fixated on the strip search and confiscation of the other three seasons of flora. This year, all of that flailing has been replaced with an overwhelming “Oh, Get on with it!”
In the spring, we began with such high hopes. We moved what seemed like a ton of pavers from the back yard to the front of the yard as we lined our new vegetable garden. We hired Rototiller Man (an archaeological descendant to Piltdown Man?) to break the earth and outdo Mr. Vonk’s landscaping motor madness, at least for an hour and a half. Then we furtively pored through seed catalogs like plant porn addicts, amended soil, fertilized, cold composted, and visited nurseries and Home Depot’s garden center.
We were inspired by a passage from Gary Paulsen’s Clabbered Dirt, Sweet Grass, describing some uncles during planting season:
Pick up the dirt and smile and say:
“Drop a seed in this drop a goddam seed in this, and you won’t make the edge of field before it’s up to your knee tripping you.”
Pick up the soil and taste it, taste a piece of it and smell it and throw it down and smile and say, “Clabbered dirt, sweet grass,” even though dirt doesn’t clabber and sour, but sill, still there is a thing to taste there that tells things.
Oh, such was our springtime Pollyanna hopes for the garden. Now, these several months later, we have devolved. We began like Big Edie in Grey Gardens when she said, “I love the smell [of Grey Gardens]. I thrive on it. It makes me feel good.”
Now we are like Little Edie when she said, “I can't stand being in this house. In the first place, it makes me terribly nervous. I'm scared to death of doors, locks, people roaming around in the background, under the trees, in the bushes, I'm absolutely terrified.” (Is it no wonder that The Grey Gardens: The Musical CD had sold approximately 30,000 copies as of November 2007?)
So we are terrified of our gardens. We could list the many reasons why we have allowed them to fall into their current state of disrepair, but, really, are minor foot surgery and two months in a “cam boot,” poorly staked tomato plants, two gusty, bamboo-trellis-destroying rain storms, preparations to send our youngest child off to college, general professional obligations, aggressive avoidance of OODW, Lady Macbeth Syndrome (Out Out Damnned Weed), and the threat of West Nile really enough to offset and properly explain our failures as stewards of the soil? We think not.
Our gardens are FUBAR. If you don’t know this military acronym for utter failure please Google it. Propriety prevents us from such potty mouthings at present. Best now to metaphorically plow them under. Learn from our mistakes – apply a dab of disambiguation. And spend the winter listening to the wailing soundtrack of Mr. Vonk’s snow blower. And preparing to do it all again next spring.
Such is the nature of gardening.