* Here in the Magical MidAtlantic, it’s suddenly daffodil week. All of a sudden, they’re everywhere; huge batches planted by the side of the road, little patches in almost everyone’s front beds, stray solitaries alongside Spout Run, yellow bunches for sale in plastic buckets outside the metro stations.
I picked a few this morning to take into work and was remembering Wordsworth’s closing lines. He’s been out walking and comes upon a large swath of daffodils, which he spends time appreciating and observing. And then, later, when he’s alone, he remembers them. “And then my heart with pleasure fills, And dances with the daffodils.”
And that, mes aimis, is changing consciousness at will. It’s a simple act of magic and one that works as well with many things — rain on the roof, a corn field in July, your child’s first laugh, the sound of the surf, a golden ginkgo tree in the October sunlight, the way it felt to win that case — as it does with daffodils. What do you magically store and come back to when needed?
In the United States, private businesses get all kinds of government support—a functional monetary system, police that safeguard private property, roads that help deliver customers and goods, public schools that educate workers, telecommunications infrastructure, legal protections against copyright and patent infringement, tax benefits for business expenses and employee health care, legal shields for owners and more. No one is forcing businesses to take advantage of all those benefits, nor forcing you to start a business to begin with nor forcing you to do so in a state with non-discrimination laws or in the United States to begin with.
I have a couple of relatives who are severe libertarian types who think all taxes are theft. So they don’t pay taxes. Every few years, the government catches them at it, and the rest of the family has to straighten their shit out. That’s the way it works, you want to lodge a protest. Hold your breath until you turn blue! Do it. But you don’t get state sanction to flout the state, and you don’t get public approval to go against the grain. You don’t get to take credit for being a rebel without actually rebelling.
And that, mes amis, says all that needs to be said about being “forced” to bake a cake.
I’m not saying you have to give money to panhandlers to be a decent person. I know people who work in homeless services and I understand all the arguments about not giving money to panhandlers. I’m saying if you don’t give money to panhandlers, at least shut up about the panhandlers. Shut tup about the guy who bought sugary soda with his LINK card. Shut up about the person who you think isn’t really disabled. Shut up about your opinions and your superiority and your loudness and your righteousness. Drive past the panhandlers, and keep your goddamn cakehole closed.
Is it that hard? There’s TV to watch. Go home and watch TV. Read a book. Go out and have a martini and live your damn life without having to prove how much everybody else sucks. Aren’t we busier than this, guys? Don’t we have things to do instead of fact-checking the grocery cart of the person in front of us, or vehicle-stalking the purportedly homeless? I can think of a thousand things to do that would be more fun than that up to and including scrubbing my bathroom floor.
This makes me angry but it also makes me so, so sad, because these are small, stymied, miserable people and they’re an awfully big slice of the population. They’re holding signs up protesting the panhandlers because they need to justify why they’re not charitable. They need to make themselves feel better about not sharing what they have. Opening ourselves up, soul and pocketbook, to one another is a human instinct and like all our elemental shit it’s scary and loud, so we tend to shove it away.
It’s not mean. It’s worse. It’s chickenshit.
And that, med amis, says all that needs to be said about the modern conservative movement.
* A beloved friend recently bought her first home and is ready to really get into gardening. She asked several gardeners what one gardening book we’d recommend. I admit that her question stumped me because I’ve always found gardening books, gardening blogs, and even directions on the back of seed packets to be generally unhelpful. They make gardening seem so complicated and I’m not, by nature, good at following directions. (Ask my mother, my gym teachers, anyone who’s ever watched me try to assemble anything, my spirit guides.) In the end, I recommended the book that taught me the most about how to garden, how to do magic, and how to live: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett.
But I’d also add, if you want to start gardening, start easy and start slow. Neil Gaiman says that Witches are often betrayed by their appetites and that’s certainly what fairy tales (and our own observations of our fellows and ourselves!) tell us. And it’s easy to look at Burpees, or Baker’s Creek, or (heaven forfend) White Flower Farm (no, honestly, stay away from them; their seedlings are shit and you don’t want to buy their stuff, no matter how pretty the pictures) and go mad. Then, one hot day in late June, when the spindly seedings are dying in the heat, or one stormy day in July when you simply cannot get outside to weed and the hairy bittercress (just as a random example and not, to be sure, a plant that I would personally like to murder) is taking over, or one cold day in November when you should go, but cannot face going, to pull everything up and put down newspaper to start over again fresh next spring, you just give up and say, “Bah! Gardening! I’m not a gardener. Those grapes were sour, anyway.”
Talk to your neighbors about what they grow. (No, really, do this. Because most gardeners will, all unasked, give you cuttings, seeds, slips, and, oh, yes, advice up your ying and down your yang. You’ll get to know your neighbors and you’ll learn what no book could ever tell you about your own microclimate.)
Get your soil tested by the local agricultural college, gardening club, or soil conservation district. This is the kind of complicated, follow-direction stuff that makes me go hazy, but good soil is the one thing you just can’t fake. I grow far more food than I can ever eat in a tiny semi-raised bed because I dumped my compost bins into them and then put in a wonderful sandy, rich soil. It is, almost without exception, the best money I’ve every spent. It’s frustrating, when you want to begin gardening NOW to hear that you need to dig out a bed, fill it with manure, and let it sit for a year, but it’s truly worth doing.
Remember that, as someone once said, if you’re not killing plants, you’re gardening beneath your abilities.
* I’m thinking of cooking this with the mushrooms from my CSA. What do you do with an embarrassment of mushrooms?