There was a stretch of time, maybe in Grad School, maybe in New York, where I had a pot and some soil and I set it out side. That it. That’s all the gardening I did. I didn’t buy seeds or fertilizer. The dirt was in there from whoever owned it before. Must have been spring or summer because before long, that thing was teeming with life.
(Side bar—I think i just named my new book…Teeming with Life.)
I would stare at this pot for 30, 40 minutes at a time, and wonder where or not it was beautiful. I went back and forth because…no, it obviously wasn’t beautiful. It was a pot of weeds. No planning had gone into this. No love had been taken in its care. That being said, isn’t nature beautiful because it is so wild? Because there’s no plan to it. Didn’t we love the free market because it was hands off? Laissez Faire? This was my pot. A natural manifestation of Milton Friedman’s thoughts on economics.
The other thing I that came to my mind is that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. That has to be true. No one can tell me who or what I find beautiful. Or ugly. In those matters we must be truly free. And what about the things that are so ugly, they are in fact beautiful. I’m thinking of those old, orange, Tampa Bay Bucs uniforms. The one with Magnum PI as a pirate on on the side of them. I guarantee you there is an actor in 1980’s Los Angeles who has head shots dangerously too close to that image.
I would say my brain has been turned on for for roughly thirty-eight years, despite what Jaimie, ex-girlfriends, and Joy Vandervort-Cobb might say. I have flashes of memory, a vision here, a feeling there, that start at about three years old. My parents’s homes factor greatly in the entire length and breadth of those memories During the thirty-eight years my brain has been aware, my parents’ have lived in two places, about three miles apart, both off State Park Road, and they have always meant a lot to me.
To this very day I dream of living at that first house, the one on Pennwood Lane. One of my neighbors from that time in my life, a parent, not a child, confessed that when she gets homesick, or has dreams of “home” that place is what she longs for.
We lived on Pennwood lane for twelve years, and would have lived there longer, if not for two extra siblings. Siblings that have enriched our lives in innumerable ways.
The house on Whittlin Way is incredible in its own right, and probably deserves its own blog post at some point. Straight from the 70s, replete with hard wood walls and doors that love to be shut. On the edge of a Duke Power Field, our back yard had no visible neighbors despite the fact that we live in the middle of a cul-de-sac. Sure the towering power lines MIGHT have caused my tumors, but boy was there a view!
I think it was living in New York City that gave me the full appreciation for the homes of my parents. Each and every immigrant to New York City has that moment when they find out what their family pays back home and their heart stops. ”Wait wait wait...I could have this… for THAT?????”
This is not taking into account, of course, that things like Central Park and the MET are a short train ride away, or that the phrase "Short Train Ride away" actually has a practical meaning. This also eliminates the miraculousness of the outcropping of rock that is Manhattan island, and the fact that we as humans have centered much of the cultural and economic happenings of the world on that one spot, and that a good portion of humanity dreams to one day have a tiny piece of it, so it is only natural, in fact, it is logical, that a one room apartment might be significantly more money than the four bedroom house the Nelson’s have set up shop in off of State Park Road. It’s fine. It’s good, even, that people’s ambitions for life are different. My parents’s ambitions were for their kids. They did what they did so we would have a much better chance at having the incredible lives that we have.
And for the most part, the plan worked.
Yet one of the challenges of living on this earth, in these bodies, at this time, is the wherewithal to appreciate the bounty that life has bestowed on us. It’s hard even for me, and I think it’s one of the great gifts God has blessed me with. But this social distancing and not being able to travel so much is forcing me, in a good way, to become cognizant of the beauty around me. So while friends of mine are making me “jealous” of their socially distanced long distance road trips, I must, no, I get to deeply experience the beauty of Greenville. The beauty of my apartment. The beauty of my parents’ home.
So that is what I do.
I was over there on Sunday and was amazed. The wind whipped through the tall grass in the the field, making if look like an Iowa corn field. A ladder held up apple trees because there are so many of them and we want them up there as long as we can. Aluminum pans are tied to the trees in an effort to scare of thee squirrels.
The yard, the house, and us, we all are teeming with life. The anthills and the hawks and the dogs and I get to sit there watching it all with thick, flowing beautiful grass between my toes.
"Where'd you get this grass?" I asked dad.
"It came from Bunyan. From your grandmother's."
He took grass from his mom and brought it here twenty years ago, and I was sitting here with it between my feet. Dad planted it. He brought it. Which is a deep a sign of love as I can imagine. Planting grass that feels good beneath your family's toes. That is beautiful. Don't need twenty-thirty minutes to figure that one out.