LOCAL VIEW –One Last Garden–

It can’t be healthy. Every night I wake at 2:00 AM and remember all the irregularities of the last election, and am outraged all over again. I’ve learned to get up and write, for if I remain in bed I start thrashing and kicking, and disturb my wife.

In some ways I remind myself of an old, punch-drunk boxer, going on and on about how he should have been champ. In other ways I remind myself of a grieving widower, mourning the death of God’s lovely angel, Liberty. At times I think I feel how Peter must have felt after the arrest of Jesus, first rebuked for fighting, yet then shamed for running scared. At my worst and my most frustrated I grumble like one of David’s most faithful “six hundred soldiers”, when everything that could go wrong had gone wrong, and they wanted David stoned to death.

Perhaps it is good to recall David’s bleakest time. David and his men had fled the Israelites, because the paranoid King Saul wanted him dead, and he found work as a mercenary for King Achish of the Philistines, living in Ziklag and fighting three Negev tribes towards Egypt. But when the Philistines prepared to fight King Saul they did not trust David, feeling he would switch sides and support his own people in the heat of battle, so when David arrived to support King Achish, King Achish sent him back to Ziklag. In essence he had been rejected by both sides in the coming battle. But when he returned to Ziklag he found smoldering ruins, and his wives and children gone, as one of the Negev tribes, the Amalekites, had raided while he was gone. His six hundred men, grieving the loss of their own wives and children, murmured David was such a complete failure he should be stoned. You can’t get much more rock bottom than that. (To avoid leaving you in suspense: David pursued the Amalekites, caught up to them as they drunkenly celebrated their victory, and crushed them, rescuing all the women and children. [1 Samuel  30]  Meanwhile Saul died fighting the Philistines to the north, so David went on to be king). Good thing David didn’t lose faith when at rock bottom.

I try to tell myself it is good to have faith tested. Faith is like a muscle that grows stronger with exercise. But exercise must be balanced with rest, and when I keep awaking at 2:00 AM I’m deficient on the rest side of the balance.

I have decided that at 2:00 AM we are at our most vulnerable. All the pep talks and prattle we utilize to keep ourselves going are asleep. But brutal reality is wide awake. And the brutal reality is: Trump won the election. Nor was it a neck-and-neck finish. He won big time, by many millions of votes. The “irregularities” were not the corrupt foibles of a few inner-city precincts, where we perhaps always expect some fraud. The “irregularities” were gigantic, and so damn obvious it physically hurts.

I think I feel most hurt by the idea so many fellow Americans don’t love their beautiful democracy. Some did not merely overlook gross distain of the law, but actually participated in the rape of decency. How could they? How could they!?

I am no King David. I am more like his troops, who were contemplating stoning their fearless leader. I thrash and kick and feel terribly unrested. I have faith goodness will triumph in the end, but less faith in my own ability to endure the wait. I am several mental states past impatience. It can’t be good for me. It can’t be healthy.

Therefore it seems wisest to drown myself in my heroin, which is work.  I am thinking of plunging my tired old body into the exertion of starting a big vegetable garden. One last garden.

Even as a disgustingly strong young man of twenty-one, I’d ache when starting a garden. But back then aching was so different from aching at sixty-eight that I’m embarrassed to read whining I wrote at twenty-one, in diaries so old the pages have yellowed. When you are young the ache is all the next day. When you are old the ache is there at the start. When you are young the burn is all in muscles. When you are old arthritis stabs joints from the start, and if the joints are vertebra the pain shoots down arms and legs. Also stiffness doesn’t wait for the next day to set in; if you sit down for lunch you grunt getting up. I think it would be a very good thing for the young to be transported into an old body for a short period of time, just so they could fully appreciate how blessed they are to be young. But George Bernard Shaw stated, “Youth is wasted on the young” while I, as a youth, wrote, “Wisdom’s wasted on the old.”

Perhaps, if I want to drown myself in work, it would be wiser to face my physical limitations, and turn my garden into a lawn, and instead to focus on writing. Offer my wisdom to the young. I should spend my time working on my latest novel, “Phatty Burgers”.

The problem with that is that, in my case,  “gardening”, in a literary sense, has never produced a crop I can eat. Poetry’s crop is hunger. And now, with the absurdity of cancel-culture censoring people who dare speak Truth, writing seems even less likely to produce anything but the stuff that agitates me at 2:00 AM.

I want a good night’s sleep, and therefore one last garden appeals to me.

I wish I had some servant I could delegate the work to, (a “Man Friday”, to be politically incorrect,) but I lack those gifts, (both the perfect farm-hand, and the ability to instruct and oversee). My recent attempts to delegate the gardening to others have been a yearly disaster. The garden starts out fine, but succumbs to neglect as temperatures peak, and the crop is mostly towering weeds. My best garden in the past decade was due to my being distrustful and selfish and simply saying (to myself), “Screw everyone! I’m NOT asking for help. I’m not blaming anyone but MYSELF.” Then I just got to work.

I want to do that again, one last time. If there are weeds, I get the blame. If I actually live to see a tomato get red, I’ll look to the sky and thank God.

There is something glorious about getting sweaty and dirty. Others may like bright outfits in the latest fashion, (and I too like to dress up on a Sunday), but they don’t know what they are missing when they avoid filth, and sweat, and wearing dirty jeans, and having aching muscles and joints, and holding a perfect cucumber which you yourself grew, and sweating in a sweltering kitchen to produce canning jars of excellent sauce, and going to bed exhausted, and sleeping the whole, beautifully-blessed night through.

Of course, with society so nuts, a big garden might turn out to be a life-saver next fall, and having a hundred pounds of potatoes to eat, when supermarket shelves are naked, might save my grandchildren’s lives. But that is not my real reason for one last garden.

My real reason is I want a good night’s sleep. And also, perhaps, I want a garden because I want a conscience that is cleansed, for there is something about a garden which whispers morality.

Lord, help me to ignore conspiracy.
I want to go out and garden all day.
Let me sweat. Let me get, all over me,
Dirt, and manure, and sand's grit, and clay,
And to put in some seeds, and, as they grow,
To fight weeds, and fat bugs and green worms.
Give me amnesia. I don't want to know
What the liars are lying. The returns
Of elections I cannot control,
But a small plot of earth my poor heart yearns
To govern wisely. Soothe my saddened soul,
Allowing what a liar seldom learns:
A cabbage has no brains, yet it awes
For, unlike kings, it obeys God's laws.