Monday, June 16, 2008

That's the Idea

I didn't know he was there--which is the point.

This morning while on a trail run behind the house, I stopped mid-way down the Sherwood single track to pee. I startled a deer baby whose mama had told him to stay put while she was away getting something to eat.

I walked into the woods, a few feet from the trail and as soon as I squatted down, I saw movement out of the corner of my eye. It was the white-spotted behind of a fawn headed toward the creek, doing that boing-boing gait that is putting the hammer down, deer-style.

When deer mamas need to roam and graze, they camouflage their fawns on the forest floors--sometimes by pushing them down on the ground. The babies don't yet have scent glands, so they can't be smelled by predators, and they somehow know not to move til their mothers return. There are stories of well-meaning people finding them and thinking that the fawns have been abandoned and have four broken legs because they will instinctively keep their legs folded up underneath them--even when picked up by the well-meaning person-- until their mother returns and tells them it's OK to move.

Their white-spotted brown fur blends in completely with the forest floor. Combined with the fact that no one and nothing can smell them, these babies are kept very safe in a sometimes brutal environment. I have only seen one other fawn pile, and it was all I could do not to stop and stare, but I kept walking, and pretended not to notice anything. I may have even whistled...

I didn't see this one, and apparently squatted right down next to it to pee. I like to think that he didn't go far, and that his mother was very close, and when she came back to that place she left him, she didn't have to worry too long before he boinged out of an aspen grove and back to her.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Ask a Farmer

Usually I work in back yards. Last week was four new raised beds: winter and summer squash, (beloved curcubita), beets, brocolli, carrots, turnips, a pile o' potatoes, and tomatoes in pots on a sunny porch. There was a little kid running around, and five hens. A creek runs through a park just behind the yard. A pretty nice office for the week I was there.

I occasionally help out a friend with her landscape/gardening business. This is often front-yard work, and it's always interesting to note that everyone talks to you when you've got your hands in dirt. They don't just say hello as they pass, they stop, talk about flowers, or trees or weather. I read in last week's NY Times Magazine about a woman who works with the guerrila gardenig project in London. They are a group of vigilante gardeners who beautify public places--abandoned tree strips, round-a-bouts--with flowers and shrubbery. She said the only time strangers talk to her in London is when she's gardening.

I also read somewhere that having your hands in good dirt releases in your body the same kind of endorphins that chocolate and sex release. Does seeing someone work in the soil trigger things primal and innate in us? Is that what gives most people a need to connect with me (or anyone) they see digging holes, planting, weeding, watering?

I know when I'm at the Farmers Market, I feel like I can ask the farmer advice about anything. I always try to get a little free plant education from whoever is working the stand, but I also feel I could ask and receive good advice about car trouble, ankle pain, why my brakes on my bike are rubbing...They just seem like they'd know. Maybe it's because when you're outside, working in the earth, you have a lot of time to think. Your work is food and beauty. You toil in providing basic needs: water, sun, healthy environment, food. Easy to understand and absolutely necessary. I think just watching someone plant a flower triggers the dirt reflex.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


From Wikipedia

Thigmomorphogenesis is the response by plants to mechanical sensation (touch) by altering their growth patterns. In the wild, these patterns can be evinced by wind, raindrops, and rubbing by passing animals.

Touch. I love the sense of feel. I can't garden with gloves, I mix meatloaf and pie crusts with my hands, I once got a double case of 2nd degree burns when I couldn't resist grabbing two fist fulls of soft white sand that had somehow appeared in our dirt driveway. The "sand" was freshly dumped ashes from the wood stove.

Last week I spent a few nights with my 90 year old grandparents. My grandma is slowly going blind and her bones are stiff from years spent ranching, raising family, doing things the hard way. She's always been the cook in the family. She's never owned a stand mixer or a food processor. She cooks by feel. She baked 20 pies for my wedding. She baked them by herself, in one day. She used her hands and a fork to make butter and flour into crusts that people still talk about when our summer-camp style wedding comes up.

Now, she feels for her way around the house. She walks close to walls and her hands slide along, around corners, over counter tops. Her hands are beautiful. And when I think of them, my mind goes to how they feel in my hand--bones and vein--delicate with these amazing strong nails she's always had. How they look never pops into my mind before they way they feel does. I've always held her hands. And I'm not a hand-holder. But I can sit next to her and hold her hand all day.

When I attempt to lay out my small list of accomplishments, I think of things I've shaped with my hands, things I've touched and made better. Times I've handed someone something they really needed, times I've made a meal, dialed a phone, cleaned up a mess. Why does "homemade" sound kind of simple and precious, but "handmade" sounds like quality?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Taking Care

From the essay Death and a Wedding by William Kittredge, dedicated to Pat kittridge and James Welch

“There will never be a simple program or set of programs to help us serve and preserve glories, but it might be useful if we heard more about the rewards of taking care – stories about humor, attentiveness, and flexibility—and not an endlessness of the self-righteous combat stories we now get from our anxious culture. Stories about the arts of building fortresses, revenge, and triumph are every time about divisiveness and semi-suicidal in an increasingly interdependent world. We can decide to dedicate ourselves to taking care. Many do. It’s said to be like learning an art.”