Wednesday, April 30, 2008

plants and death (figurative and otherwise)

I believe I may be a plant killer. Some plants that more or less survived my awkward care in New York have lost their green. I'm unsure why. I suppose it has to do with simple sunlight. In our old place, there was a lot of sunlight because we had a huge picture window. Now, I have always hated picture windows, mostly because they are in those horrible ranch houses that line the streets of so many towns in America. But I am beginning to see the pluses in them. I have begun to take them out and set them on the patio during the day, and retrieve them at night. It's still a bit cold at night, and I feel they are somewhat lonely outside. I'm hoping that will work.

I've been reading an excellent book of short stories, The Family Markowitz, by Allegra Goodman. One of the editors at FSG suggested I read it for guidance in reworking my collection to be more novel-esque. In this book, there is one character, Ed, who is kind of a horrible person, but I like him more and more. He's an academic who studies Middle East politics, and in this particular story he is being interviewed about a book he wrote on the subject. At one point, the interviewer asked him about whether he thought the attack on the World Trade Center could be excused. Now, my thoughts were of the recent attack on the WTC, and I was a bit disturbed by his glib response--but then I realized this was written in 1996, so although still disturbed not quite so. Although, now that I think of it, that's pretty cold of me, to be less disturbed by one bombing over another. I guess that is what time does, at least to me.

Addendum: I wrote the above earlier. Since then, my plants are perking up, and Tom and I are also the proud parents of six tomato plants in addition to my other plants. We have left all of them out since we bought the tomatoes (since the tomatoes are in three five-gallon buckets) except for last night. The weather people were warning us about frost, so we huffed them inside--they seemed happy to be inside, but even happier to return to their true home this morning.

Saturday, April 19, 2008


For the past few days I've been missing New York a lot.

I don't know where this came from. I mean, I always miss New York, but in a much more controlled way. Maybe it's the spring warmth. It's nice and warm here in spurts, and I'm thinking about how New York really becomes New Yorkish in summer. Summer in New York is really disgusting in a lot of ways. It is no wonder that people who had the means back in the days before air conditioning fled the city. It is no wonder that people who have the means now flee the city. The subways are stifling, buses are sweaty, everyone pares down to their skivvies (whether or not they have the bodies for it), etc. But it also is a time when you can sit in a park, watch people, sip a soda and read a good book next to a drug addict nodding out. It is a time when you can wander the city just to wander without the discomfort of bulky winter coats and scarves.

Not to say Harrisonburg doesn't have its charms. Today Tom and I walked to the tiny farmer's market, bought some plants I'm hoping will survive our care, walked to another plant sale, then walked to a thrift store, Gift and Thrift (have I mentioned that it's the best place for used furniture?), then to EMU to sit on the grass and wonder where all the students are. There's another walk we take after I get off work. It takes us through downtown up through a large cemetery that was started in 1850. I look at the gravestones, the things that Tom refers to, via Hamlet, as the marble jaws, and read the dates, and try to figure out how old they were when they died. Sounds morbid, but I find it somehow relaxing. Only the ones of children are the really sad. There's one near the entrance of a small boy, whose grave is surrounded by a little garden of tulips. I can see the loving work of a mama or a grandma creating this spot for someone who probably tramped around in dirt and laughed a lot.

And I actually like Harrisonburg. I think I like it even more this time around. As I walked the grass of EMU, I remembered all the times I crossed the lawns in a hurry for something or other, and I realize I didn't really know the city I lived in at all. The smell of the grass, the actual smell, made me feel like I was back in that time--and I didn't miss it at all. I miss the people, but not that time. I guess that's probably a good thing.

I like Harrisonburg, and I've even got into a routine here that is slowly getting more satisfying. I'm writing more (not on this blog, unfortunately) than I have since grad school, trying to get this damn book finished. But I think the actual realization of this routine has cemented me into this place, so I look longingly back to New York, to my New York routine.

One time my sister-in-law said something quite profound: you can't have everything you want in one place, but you can be happy in the place you are at. That's a bad paraphrase, but that's the gist of what she said.

So, I'm trying to keep that in mind.