Tuesday, March 24, 2009

"I will show you fear in a handful of dust...."

April is the cruelest month, breeding
lilacs out of the dead land, mixing memory and desire, stirring dull roots with spring rain.
T.S. Eliot

My seeds are sprouting. I put seeds in peat moss, water them, and the miracle happens.

I do nothing to deserve this. Nothing.



We have long lost our commons. We are now close to losing anything public.

We are heading towards a brand new day in education. The corporate interests are winning. The monied class is winning.

Public is an honorable word, derived from the Latin publicus, which sprang from an even older word poplicus, a variant of populus, or "people." Public literally means "open to all in the community."

Still, a tiny portion of my town's public monies goes to buying peat pots and seed starter, lights and seeds. My kids get to plant in one of the few remaining public spaces left--school.

I will plant most of my seedlings on private land because we no longer have a commons. Back when folks knew that land meant food, this caused concerned. Today the connection of food to land seems as quaint as telling time using a sundial.

If I had to give up watches or sundials, I'd give up the watch. I own a working sundial. I do not own a functioning watch.


I dreamed last night of death, as I usually do in spring. The sun swings ridiculously quick to the north these days. Everything I do that matters requires sunlight.


Without an influx of energy, things fall apart. At my age they fall apart anyway. My telomeres, cellular hour glasses, keep shrinking.

I pretend otherwise. I am bathed in light from my monitor, powered by coal stripped off the face of this Earth by huge machines powered by petroleum.


If you want to keep a plant alive in a classroom, you need to pay attention. You need light, you need water. Our breaths provide the rest.

I can rattle on about cytochromes, about chemiosmotic potentials and ATP synthase. I can make my students mouth off fancy phrases--we have post-graduate education classes designed to teach me how to keep my charges in check, to convince them that testable knowledge holds value, that they need the diploma to be complete human beings.

Preparing young people for success in life is not just a moral obligation of society. It's an economic imperative.

Arne Duncan

I know a lot of very bright adults. I know a lot of very educated adults. Sometimes an adult can be both. The most interesting adults I know all know where food comes from.

The most interesting adult I know outside of my immediate clan never finished high school. Don't worry, Arne, he's done his part to support our economy. He's produced far more than any superintendent or politician ever has, though he had help from the bees and the sun and the land.

He's a farmer, and a good one.

Farmers know death, and farmers know grace.
Hard to accept one without the other.


New Jersey tests all of its biology students in May. By then, a few of my students will have bean stalks hanging from their bonsai bean plants struggling to survive in a classroom.

If you own land and cannot afford the time to plant a bean, something is fundamentally wrong. People sense that things are fundamentally wrong, and we have good drugs for this--Zoloft will make you feel better, and might even help you on the state exam.

It won't, however, make you a better gardener.

When things settle down in this part of the world, when we remember what made our land and The Great Experiment such a source of joy, we may get less excited about telomeres, and more excited about beans again. Death will no longer be such a surprise.

Planting a bean in class will not help any of my students pass a standardized test.

I do it anyway.


lucychili said...

Makes me think of John Clare:

I read Tolstoy's confession which containts an allegory of a man who ran from a beast(time) and jumped into a well to hide. He stops falling by grabbing onto a branch halfway down. There is a dragon at the bottom(death), and a black and white mouse chew at the branch.(night and day). The branch is sweet but seems tenuous to Tolstoy, futile. I then read Whitman's leaves of Grass and they seemed to give me a sense of pattern and continuity in life and death. As you do with beans =)

lucychili said...

The report, Unbounded Freedom, from the British Council features some lovely snippets of Clare's poetry about enclosure and commons.

The report is a PDF downloadable from this page: http://unboundedfreedom.wordpress.com/2006/09/25/7/

Kathryn J said...

A public commons is so enticing. I can't figure out if the internet supports or detracts from that commons. In cyberspace, there is so much potential for connection but does it isolate us in our own communities?

doyle said...

Dear lucychili,

I guess I am fascinated by the mice, and curious about the bottom of the well.

That I am consciously a part of all this amazes me anytime I stop to think about it. As I get older, I realize it's worth taking the time to stop and think about it.

Dear Kathryn,

Playing on the internet is as good a definition of sin, or turning away from God, as I know--I do it anyway.

I love the human connections, and in January when the ground is frozen, it helps me get through the darkness. Beats Zoloft.

Still, it does nothing to foster true community, and it doesn't involve much more than my cortex. "Own" communities are truly the only kind.

Heck, a holding a handful of good soil does me more good than chatting with brilliant interesting strangers.

I forget this in the winter. I hope I remember this in the spring.

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

"The river sweats
Oil and tar . . ."

". . . Death by Water." - t. s. e.