i am practicing resurrection. with a trowel and a bag of supercharger root booster. i am digging holes. big holes. unearthing what to you might look like dried brown sticks. but if you look close, really really close, there are bits and shoots — and occasionally tendrils — of green.
i call it resurrection gardening.
i’m hellbent, it seems, on bringing things back to life.
it’s a fine pursuit on a hot summer’s day when the world all around is going to hell in a hand basket. or so it sounds — especially if you listen to the chatter and the vitriol that percolates on air waves all day long, all summer long, all these-last-three-years-long.
as is so often the case in the realm of the garden, it’s become something of an obsession. i dream of half-dead (okay, five-sixths dead) vines i won’t give up on. i dream of digging them out of their sun-forsaken plots and moving them, with surgical-nurse precision and intensive-care-nursery tenderness, around a corner and down the fence line to where their ganglionic roots might take a liking to the new surroundings and do the little wiggle dance that is a root tunneling through earth, sucking up sustenance, rewarding the resurrection gardener with a little whoop-de-doop! (the triumphant yelp that comes, even in a whisper, when knot of green appears where before there was only stick. and dead-looking stick at that.)
i like to think of my little bumper crop of almost-dead things as my lazarus contingent. this week alone, i’ve counted two trees, a bush, and two vines among the not-yet-fallen. after the long hard winter, my garden had taken on a hardstruck look. bushes that once had burst with leaves were now not much besides a collection of barren stick or branch, all jutting this way and that as if to shout, “we’re dying here, and we’d like an assist before we take our last and final exhale.”
i’d ignored their cries long enough. i’d let the summer wind into july before i mustered the chutzpah, the courage, the lopper-power it takes to ply a miracle or two. or to try anyway.
this week, something hit me. overcame me, really. if you tried to find me for long hours on end, you wouldn’t have had much luck. unless you poked around the corners of my semi-acre. then you might have spied a mud-streaked, pewter-haired, shovel-wielding missus, wrenching this muscle or that, grunting on occasion, eventually trotting triumphantly, holding a vine or bush by the hairs (as if a pussycat plucked from too deep a mud puddle). i’d survey the so-called acreage, find a spot of promise, and begin again to dig. i’d sprinkle prestidigitation powders, do a little voodoo dance, and plop that salvaged vine/bush/quasi-tree into its new digs.
by nightfall, i ached all over. and needed nothing short of a scrub bush to un-cake the muck from in between my toes, up my shins, and the same on the upper limbs, the ones that had me muddy clear past my elbows.
but deep down inside i was humming. humming a happy, i-saved-something-today tune. it’s not a song i get to sing very often. almost never. which might have been what made it so so sweet. and such an unstoppable obsession. in a world of things i cannot fix, presidents i can’t make go away, attorneys general who make me want to scream, kids i love hauling off to college sooner than i’d like to think, i am quite tickled by the notion that a sharp-edged shovel, a bag of super-booster, and a little bit of i’ll-show-you is enough to shift the narrative, to re-write the death knell of the climbing hydrangea, the summer snowflake viburnum, and the plain old humdrum hydrangea.
i’ll be keeping watch through the days and weeks (and occasional nights) ahead. i’ll be on the lookout for even the itty-bittiest proof that all is not lost, and one lowly little specimen is on the rise, not the death watch.
if i can leave this planet even one iota greener, lusher, more apt to spread its roots and rise, well then my days caked in mud, my nights caked in ben-gay, will not have been in vain.
what did you resurrect this week?
a few weeks back, when i was off at poetry school, the poem i memorized, wendell berry’s “manifesto: the mad farmer liberation front,” ends with the magnificent instruction, “practice resurrection.” which is precisely what i’ve been doing all week. i like to think farmer berry would wink in approval at the notion that i’ve taken up the practice, with shovel.
here, once again, are the lines i memorized, from “manifesto”…(on second thought, i’m letting the whole thing rip here. it’s too glorious to only quote a stanza or two.) celebrate mr. berry’s instruction: get out there and practice resurrection this week. xoxoxox
Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front
by Wendell Berry
Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion – put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn’t go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
First, I can’t believe you managed to memorize that long poem. I’m lucky if my brain can remember one sentence of it. I used cut and paste for this one: “Love someone who does not deserve it.” That is the particular thing I need to practice today, after a heart-slam yesterday from a nephew. Thank you. ❤️
see below, sweetheart. only memorized a portion. but i love so many parts of it — the line you cite, for instance — that i couldn’t resist putting up the whole thing.
so so sorry for heart slam, sweetheart. geeez………
you know where to find a heart that will harbor and protect you every hour of every day of every week of every year……xoxox
What a wonderful poem! I am uber impressed you memorized it- so long!! I resurrected a dormant Mom’s only dinner group this week – made me smile to do it!!
AHHHH! i LOVE that it was a human group you resurrected this week! that makes me smile very very much. if you mamas ever need a babysitter, i know a former pediatric nurse about to be an empty nester!!!!!
and p.s. i didn’t memorize the WHOLE thing, only a portion. but i love the whole thing so much i let the whole thing rip here. because this world could use this manifesto. i wrote a chair manifesto long ago. i think it’s on the kitchen table page, but i will have to poke around to see if it’s still there…..
Nature and gardening are a sure tonic for soul and body. May your tender transplants thrive, may they lift glad green arms to the light…
I love this poem, love that you have committed it to memory. Peace to your tender heart… xxx
sure tonic, indeed. i imagine i will be dashing out the door before dawn to check on my little babies’ overnight progress. xoxoxox
love the sandburg “south wind” poem you read to me this week……i’ll post that one too……
The South Wind Say So
by Carl Sandburg
IF the oriole calls like last year
when the south wind sings in the oats,
if the leaves climb and climb on a bean pole
saying over a song learnt from the south wind,
if the crickets send up the same old lessons
found when the south wind keeps on coming,
we will get by, we will keep on coming,
we will get by, we will come along,
we will fix our hearts over,
the south wind says so.
Love this! I’m reading this while sipping some Chardonnay in my little garden. I just told John that per Modern Mrs. Darcy’s blogpost today, one of the things that is bringing me joy this summer is that we divided and transplanted a big beautiful hosta and then surrounded it with some little white impatiens and placed a little stone cherub right next to it. Now there is this gorgeous little vista right in front of my patio perch. I haven’t read this entire Wendell Berry poem before, but I have loved this line from it for quite a while. Maybe three and a years long. “Be joyful though you have considered all the facts.”
i love that for all of us, there is a line…..love your line, ms. haggs. love your garden alchemies too. division and multiplication. i can imagine just that vista, and the merriness of your ring of joy and serenity.
i don’t know of Modern Mrs. Darcy, but i am thinking i must…..
You can find MMD on twitter. Anne Bogel. She basically recommends all sorts of books. I go there for reading inspiration every summer. She has gotten a little commercialized lately which I find a bit off putting, but hey she’s making a living doing what she loves!
I can’t believe someone would give you a heart-slam, sweet Nan. Also I’ve never heard the heart-slam term before, but I gotta say it is a super description of mean spiritedness.
i know! how in the world, who in the world, could heart-slam the gentlest heart we know and love? can you feel us all circling round you, with our mean scowls on, ready to take on whoever dared offend? xoxox