Things That Go Bump in the Mind

Things That Go Bump in the Mind
Look for a new post every Sunday morning.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

So Much Depends Upon a Red Wheelbarrow

     It's spring. Oh, I know spring has been here for about a month as far as the calendar is concerned, but real spring – actual spring – doesn't look at the calendar, it looks at the buds blooming on the fruit trees.
     The Grass has sent me official notice that the upcoming mowing season is going to be fiercely competitive. I surprised my green nemesis by opening the mowing season a week earlier than it expected, and I may have caught it off-guard the first time on the opening match of the season, but The Grass is already determined to dominate the standings by mid-July. My neighbor, Bill, had some extra blades that happened to fit the Craftsman 21HP and so my mount is feeling especially eager to take on the competition. I still have to put on a new filter and change the oil in order to get the Craftsman fully psyched up for the summer ahead, but the filter is already in the cab of the truck waiting for the next trip into town to meet a doppelganger at the parts store, and I've already drained the old oil out so there's no turning back on the process of transfusing new blood into the Briggs and Stratton heart of the 21HP.
     The garden has accepted its cold weather class of 2013 with loving welcome. The cabbage, cauliflower, and brussel sprouts have been in the ground for better than a week, and yesterday, I threw caution to the wind and put peppers and tomato plants in the ground. A frost can kill those pepper and tomato plants, but the forecast for the week ahead has lows in the mid 40s so I'm tossing the dice to see if I can get those summer bounties a few weeks earlier this year.
     The garden never looks as good as it does when it's first planted. Someday soon, a few weeds will poke up through the ground and try to bring chaos to my nice orderly rows, and by late August, the Law of Entropy will prevail over my attempts to keep the garden pretty and neat. There are humans among us who have that gift for keeping a garden as lovely on it's last harvest in the fall as its first plant in the spring, but I will never find myself among their demographics. I am too paranoid of chemical companies to use products to keep the weeds under control, and by late summer, when it's really hot outside, I become too much aware of the relatively cheap price of a can of tomatoes at Kroger to care about fighting off the pagan weed invaders that storm the territory of my civilized plants. In the first few months of each spring, I will ruthlessly hunt down and hoe out the vanguard of the heathen weed invaders, but by the time the thrust of the horde arrive, I'll be safely retreating to the air conditioning in my basement. I have a rototiller, but it hates to start almost as much as I hate to use it so there's only so many times I'm willing to drag that beast out of the barn.
     What a relief it is to have warmer weather. We spend so much time in the winter trying to just endure the indignities of cold weather that by the time in late April or early May when we can finally leave the house without a jacket, the whole of nature is mildly intoxicating. Spring gets into the blood stream and travels up the spinal column where it hypnotizes the brain into thinking that building a patio is a good idea. “Look at it this way, Brain,” argues the rhetoric of Spring, “All you have to do is the planning. Back and shoulders will do all the heavy lifting; you won't have to lift anything; all you have to do is ride around inside the skull and think about how nice it's going to be when it's all finished.” About this time, Back and Shoulders start to put in request for vacation time, but Brain is too twitterpated by Spring to take their demands very seriously. “Yes,” whispers Spring seductively, “Look at the Lowes' ad. Patio stones are on sale this weekend. You know how much you like saving money, right?”
     It's spring, and so much depends upon a red wheelbarrow glazed with rainwater. When I was in high school, I thought this William Carlos William poem represented everything I hated about poetry. I couldn't understand it because it didn't seem to have a point. As a high school freshmen, this poem represented everything that was wrong with my high school education. The state could force me to go to school and listen to such drivel, but it could not compel me to like it, and I refused to like it. When I was in the 9th grade, I had no use for poetry. Poetry was too genteel to be respected by my testosterone-fueled adolescence, and I didn't want to have anything to do with it.
     Now, a lifetime later, this poem represents everything that was good about my high school education. This poem, at least as I interpret it now, is a way of saying, “So much depends upon our ability to appreciate the simple pleasures of life. Without our ability to recognize beauty in the ordinary, we are lost to our own humanity.” If there is anything that is lacking in the new, draconian, standards-or-die formulas for education, it's this message that our humanity is far more important than any score on a nationally normed evaluation. What our students need, in my humble opinion, is far more time to consider why beauty is important and far less time trying to prove that they have mastered some skill that makes them employable to corporate hacks who believe only their own money is beautiful.
     Wow, almost slipped into a rant there. Could go on about it, but hey, it's spring, and at least for now, the garden is free of weeds. Brain doesn't want to go on writing; Brain wants to plan a patio.  I will be teaching this poem this week, and I expect my sophomores will hate it until I explain why so much depends upon a red wheelbarrow.
     Keep thinking rhetorically, and I'll be back next week.

1 comment:

  1. Your garden sounds absolutely delightful. I miss garden-fresh produce, but hey, at least this year, we've got the produce from the CSA. Woo!


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