Friday, June 12, 2009

No Redeeming Value

Dear Ella,

Here's a topic for your doctorate.

I look up redeem. There are six interpretations of the word with accompanying synonyms. The last interpretation: to convert into something of value. It makes me wonder. If something cannot be converted, then it has no value.

I consider myself a writer. Whether I am good, bad, fair, obnoxious, boring or a twit is inconsequential. I write for me. I spend a fair amount of time converting images into words. This morning we were fogged in at 6 am. Total inversion is common in this area of the driftless region where nighttime cold air settles in valleys. By 8 am only puffy white clouds lingered over the Kickapoo. I'd have a hard time converting the picture into something of value. Often digital photographs of natural phenomena don't measure up to the experience of the real thing. Sometimes, adding sound expands the experience, for example; I open the deck door to see if the Pooch is around. I hear the pounding of cat feet on the wooden deck. I laugh as he lopes across the deck. The padded hoof beats sound like miniature horses. " I guess you're hungry," I say to him.

I notice at the town meeting the other night that people often resort to cliches and work-worn expressions when they speak. Red herring, can of worms, bought the farm, kicked the bucket, are just a few.

I don't know where I'm going with this. I ate most of our collard crop for breakfast this morning. Steamed in the microwave and seasoned with a pat of butter, the baby greens were tender and delicious. The germination of collards in this ten foot row was spotty. Weeds competed with the greens for sun and water. I need space for an 29 additional tomato plants, so I pull most of the baby collards. Dawn is so-so about collards (notice, I slipped in another of those common everyday expressions).

Out of the blue an idea comes to mind. Next year I'll grow only potatoes. You can almost see the good farmer/bad farmer fighting on my shoulders. If you discount the work involved- handpicking of Colorado potato beetles, dangers of frost, floods-potatoes are easy to grow. They store well. The image of the Irish potato famine comes to mind. Scratch that. Maybe I'll grow just onions and potatoes.

Again, without Dawn's help, weeding the carrots, we would have lost another crop. She stops at the Agri-Center in town and purchases a weeding bench. The molded plastic green and tan contraption doubles as a seat when one straddles a row and works as a kneeler when turned over. I don't think Dawn noticed me roll my eyes when she comes into the front field grinning. I 've learned to withhold judgment on contraptions. A previous purchase is now a standard accessory for manually weeding large areas. It looks like a hoe. At the end of a five foot handle is a rectangular red blade. It slices through the ground just below the surface and cuts weeds off at the roots. I rolled my eyes on that one too. The point which I've almost ignored is that the garden is almost out of control. Shit happens.

Dawn is a Capricorn and I am a Gemini. We're as opposite as Australian and Mayan. Inuit and Amish. Mormon and Irish Catholic. Vershtay? I would bounce the idea of double or single cropping off her IF communication weren't so weird. Add to the fact that Dawn often begins speaking and finds me staring at her quizzically. Then she'll say, "Oh, did I say oranges? I meant apples." I have trouble following her line of drift.

My rambling over country roads of thought began with another chapter from Driftless by David Rhodes.

In the novel, the expansion of the county fair with non-redeeming elements such as an arcade, a huge beer tent, loud raucous music, "unshaved men with open shirts" is the clever work of a skilled writer. Mr. Rhodes doesn't pontificate. He presents images. Contrast. Intricate character studies. He makes one think.

We all have different thoughts about carnivals, fairs, the midway, the hawkers, baked goods manure, horse shows, hot July and August afternoons. I could write a novel about my experiences. "Unlax", as Bugs Bunny says, I'll spare you the agony.

A man sits on a plank above a water tank. He's black. As people pass by, he hurls insult after insult at them. In between each cleverly worded attack-at a lady with a little too much cream pie on the thighs, at a child who stumbles on the gravel, at an old man whose mouth hangs open
he murmurs a man crawling on the hot desert. For $1 people have the chance to be a racist, to get back at a cruel jibe, to toss the creep into the clear, glass tank of cloudy water. Just his gravel voice would make you want to fork over a buck. It's a tough way to earn a living. I imagine he makes a good living on a hot afternoon.

Life is a carnival. I think someone wrote a song with that title.

Hey, tell Jenna and Julie to bring rubber boots. Forget the hog butchering. There's a half ton of horse manure to haul from the neighbor's corral. It may take a day or so of heavy labor.



biblioarchy said...

great blog. glad i found you. Mr. Rhodes will be reading at our bookstore in viroqua next friday june 19th. hope you can come.
driftless books
215 s. Main St.
Main st. station
Viroqua, WI

Roger A. Gavrillo said...

Thanks for the message. I plan on being at the bookstore on Friday and am bringing more people with me. I hope you'll have his book to purchase and sign. It's a classic I want to add to my collection.