Saw this image last week at the Chicago Museum of Contemporary Art and it stopped me in my tracks. Some later research also revealed that U2 used the image in an early version of their video for "One". Eerie and beautiful and oddly enough, a song that stopped me in my tracks when I first heard it so many years ago.
To me, gardening has always been an act of revolution. A revolt against the ten hours of desk work, the multinational food giant, soft hands, and city living. With every transplanted seedling, I am master (mistress?) of my domain. When I pop a warm, ripe backyard raspberry into my mouth, I feel like I stick it to the man, just a little bit. There are so many kinds of self-sufficiency of which I know absolutely nothing. But this I know: I can take a seed, stick it in the ground and make food come of it.
My friend Mara, whose beautiful shoe is photographed above, speaks of seeds like they are magic, music, medicine. She keeps a small vial of heirloom seeds on her and will shake them for a sort of musical meditation. Wendell Berry writes poetry about ploughing the earth. Me, I make charts. My charts tell me what seeds I have left (and how much of them) and what seeds I desire. Sometimes I'll add a picture to remind myself why "Chervena Chushka" was a must-have the last time I browsed Seed Savers catalog. I chart out an indoor starts schedule and then an outdoor starts schedule. I may even chart the planting boxes, so I can rotate a few different crops. Oh yes, spreadsheets have a poetry and music of their own - the only kind of poetry and music I can produce with wild abandon.
And yet as controlling as I am at this end of things, there always comes a point where I succumb and let the creation take over. Those rigid spring spreadsheets decompose into June's sprouts, July's entropy and August's gravity. We always, always, lose control. We enter the garden with one part intimidation and three parts glee as we stumble and bump our way around the overgrowth plucking warm tomatoes, twisting off an eggplant, bending into a carrot firmly entrenched in the soil. The dirt and toughened skin is never fully scrubbed off the hands. And you wear it like a badge of honour because it reminds you that you haven't completely lost your tie to the earth.
Sowing the seed,
my hand is one with the earth.
Wanting the seed to grow,
my mind is one with the light.
Hoeing the crop,
my hands are one with the rain.
Having cared for the plants,
my mind is one with the air.
Hungry and trusting,
my mind is one with the earth.
Eating the fruit,
my body is one with the earth.
- Wendell Berry
Deep winter has settled in and I sit still a lot more frequently this time of the year. It's great for seeing, all this sitting still, and the more I look at seemingly unimportant or banal things, the more fascinating they get. They call to me to find the beauty, the fascinating, the fractal complexity. And then, in the way that cosmic forces seem to converge and lead to something wonderful, I have lunch with a friend who tells me she has been taking a photo a day and that she can look back at these pictures and remember almost every day that they were taken. I'm smitten. For the next 365, I will take a picture a day. To see. To remember. It seems, this is a recurring quest in my life.
Here's what I'm drawn to these days:
*edges and transitions, where snow and ice meet pavement, how light moves around the corner of a small box of mints sitting by the window, where the self-contained meet and overlap, and interesting things happen;
*blurry images, where the tangible seems to be infused with magic and you can play tricks on your own eyes, flower morphs to octopus;
*little tiny things and my macro lens.
Ah. It's good to be back here.