Saturday, June 20, 2009

sometimes the city makes you soft

I've always believed that living in the the city resulted in toughening up and living in the country softened people. Today I'm not so sure.

I started thinking back to one of our
Stinson Beach Motel vacations. We spent our mornings rising early enough to jump out of bed and rush to the picnic area near the beach before anyone else would arrive and disturb our favorite gopher (there were probably several gophers, but we liked believing that we saw the same busy gopher every morning). We'd quietly sit on a picnic table with our coffees and try not to giggle too loudly as we watched him scurry about and pop his head up through various holes surrounding the picnic tables. We didn't know what sort of important work was going on underground, but we found it all very entertaining. We weren't worried about the picnic area. We were just visiting for a few days and then returning to San Francisco.

Then some big things changed and we were suddenly starting a kitchen garden behind our new home in Point Reyes. Our happy gopher days were immediately over. We were no longer entertained by gophers. It was hard work keeping them at bay to protect our fruit, veggies, and herbs. Whenever we saw a new telltale mound of dirt or a little gopher head pop up through a hole in the yard we'd growl--grrrrrrrrr.

I could tell a similar story about the deer in West Marin. They were darling and Bambi-like until they started eating my peas and the new heliotrope plant we were told was "deer resistant". I now believe what Mostly Natives Nursery states on their website "
There is no such thing as a deer proof plant. Some deer somewhere has eaten everything that we know of including poisonous plants." The deer in Point Reyes are tough. They stare you down. They have no fear.

While cleaning a head of lettuce today I stumbled upon a tiny snail, it was incredibly small, the size of a grain of jasmine rice. I stopped what I was doing and became mesmerized by this miniature creature as it moved slowly along an inner lettuce leaf. Just months ago I was at war with the snails in my yard, buying little anti-snail copper fences and dreaming up new ideas for beer traps. Today, back in San Francisco and without a yard, much further from the lush landscape that surrounded me back then, I find I've warmed up to the snails, at least to this little guy. I carefully removed the leaf, snail and all, from the lettuce head and took it outside. I gently placed the snail, atop it's giant magic carpet of a lettuce leaf, on a steep weed-covered slope behind my apartment and wished it a long and happy life.

This weekend was supposed to be a computer-free weekend, but I cheated. Without my yard and garden I sometimes spend too much time on my laptop. I'm not feeling much remorse because my cheating was rewarded with this beautiful poem found on Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. Sometimes breaking the rules pays off. I'll follow the rules tomorrow.

Appreciating poetry, forgiving rule breaking, giving a perfectly good lettuce leaf to a snail ...see how soft I am?

A Small Dragon
by Brian Patten

I've found a small dragon in the woodshed.
Think it must have come from deep inside a forest
because it's damp and green and leaves
are still reflecting in its eyes.

I fed it on many things, tried grass,
the roots of stars, hazel-nut and dandelion,
but it stared up at me as if to say, I need
foods you can't provide.

It made a nest among the coal,
not unlike a bird's but larger,
it is out of place here
and is quite silent.

If you believed in it I would come
hurrying to your house to let you share my wonder,
but I want instead to see
if you yourself will pass this way.

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