The Wednesday Word: 14 July 2021

Because there isn’t an in between in this age of extremes, Vermont has gone from drought to deluge in one week. The heat has broken. Instead, there is a clammy chill that settles in the joints and swells doors well past sticky — there is much kicking involved in leaving the house. I can’t hang the laundry out to dry; it only gets wetter even when it’s not actively raining. The concrete basement floor is darkened with the damp. I worry about underground streams. There is the ghostly tracery of a brick well in the floor. Stands to reason that the water still exists. Things are growing at any rate.

dock. ugh!
Bloody dock.

Some things I’d like to see grow, but the Dog Days seem to breed chaos rather than culture. I pull the weeds and wipe the molds and squish the unsavory bugs. And then start it all over again the very next day. I am the steward. My job is to tend to this very small patch of life. But mostly I feel like the janitor, guarding the garden gate against July with my mop and my hoe.

And thank heavens for saddle hoes! The ground is much further away than it used to be. And though wet soil yields up the roots easier than the hardened clay of May and June, pulling on a dock plant will just break the leaves off. Coating your hand in slime in the process. The former people seemed to interpret “organic gardening” as “let just whatever happen out there”, and there is now a fearsome array of weeds (by any definition). Grasses and plantains in the perennial beds. Queen Anne’s lace in the kitchen garden. Dock smothering the lavender and roses. I really despise dock. Don’t even like it in the wild. It’s an aggressively rude plant. I’m pretty sure it’s mocking me. (It may even be right.)

Let me just say that organic gardening is not allowing whatever to happen. Gardening is shaping the patch of life you inhabit to meet specific needs. “Organic” just means you don’t use synthetic chemicals or some types of energy-sucking mechanical tools to meet those needs. You may need to grow a bit of wildness, feed wildlife rather than yourself, but you will nevertheless still be stewarding this organism toward that goal. All the parts of the macro-critter that is a garden have their own agendas. The beauty of a garden is in the balance, making one flowingly seamless thing from the many. Dock never seems to fit into any balanced system. It’s always running rampant over the more timorous plants and feeds nobody except the decomposers — when it finally expires in a messy heap. Thus the bees, butterflies, birds, and I are all in agreement on preferring those shrinking violets to the gauche burdock bristles.

So I clip and cut and cultivate. And by July start to dream longingly of sleepy winter.

And lo, the days are shortening!

The Wednesday Word

for 14 July 2021


You can respond in the comments below or make a Twitter post to the Wednesday Word. Either way, begin your response with #cultivate. Your response can be anything made from words. I love poetry, but anything can be poetic and you needn’t even be limited to poetics. An observation, a story, a thought. Might even be an image — however, I am not a visual person and I am utterly uninterested in GIFs. A picture is not worth a thousand words to my mind. In the spirit of word prompts, it’s best if you use the word; but I’m not even a stickler about that. Especially if you can convey the meaning without ever touching the word.

If responding in Twitter, you are limited to the forms of Twitter. I would prefer that there be no threads because that is difficult. So if you have something long, post it in the comments below. That said, please don’t go too long. Keep it under 2000 words. I’m not going to count, but I’m also not promising to read a novel. Unless it’s really good!

If I receive something particularly impressive, I’ll post it next week. If not, well, that’s fine too. I know you all are busy. But if you’ve read this far, then I’ve made you think about… cultivate.

John Singer Sargent
Carnation, Lily, Lily, Rose, 1885–6
© Tate, London, 2015
the gardener

i’ve got my trowel and my trencher
 she said
i’m off to sow

so saying, a-sowing she went
  with words hidden up her sleeves
  an idea or two tucked into her hatband

and the rows await
  pull out weedy fallacy
  cut back dead superstition
  cultivate and amend
and then
  drop the seed in fertile soil

this stubborn patch of clay
that deep, tilled loam
all in her care
all in her care

i’ve got my trowel and my trencher
so a-gardening she went
and goes forth each bright day

©Elizabeth Anker 2021

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