Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Annie Gardenbed's Song

Your world is good for me
and so I give you thanks
for soil and seasons, seeds and sun,
for water and wisdom and work to be done.
Your world is good for me
(Annie Gardenbed) -

Sorry about the Noncommercial break, but I wanted Disney's
legal hordes to know that I'm not trying to profit by this.

Your world.
I don't say who "you" is, but there is no need. I am singing to one who is present, listening; why use a name? It would only drag us off into arguments about the connotations of the name, and then about which gender of pronoun we should use when the name is too burdensome to speak in its entirety.

Isn't it rude to argue about someone when they are present?

Your world is good for me.
It is a whole world, and it is larger than my doubts and fears about what may be done to me specifically. It is a good place in which to choose my way.

I give you thanks . . .
and in so doing, I open my own eyes, and my whole being, to the wonder, blessings, and possibilities that are all around me, always, whether I remember to give thanks or not.

Do I own it? Because I can surround it with survey stakes, do I really own the soil? If I turn and tear it with the movement of steel, driven by combustion commanded by cash, do I forget? It is much more ancient than I and my title. It is more fluid and changing than the lines on the deed. It anchors the roots of life, records the traces of centuries, and yet whole decades of its building can be swept away, to a new place and people, in a few windstorms or a single flood.

Is soil, all too often, taken as a given instead of as a gift?

Dave Sauchyn of Regina, trying to create the few bullet points asked of him to somehow sum up a 448-page report on the impacts of climate change in Canada, said this:
Canada is losing the competitive advantage of a cold winter.

Seeds, sun, and water . . .
the things we often remember in our thanks.

There is so much more.

If you find a little here, I am thankful.

Work to be done!
In our modern world we only deem something a success if we can stand back idle and watch it work. If any physical effort is required, it is an outright failure. . . . The very first thing we do when seeing something so elegantly simple and useful as this pump is scheme to make it work while we just stand by and stare at it.

There is a pitfall in being thankful for things given to us. The story of Johnny Appleseed is inspiring, but the popular version, as summed up in the merry little verse, drifts toward a "big-rock-candy-mountain" vision of idyllic idleness achieved at last, as a result of someone else's generous hard work. That vision entices, seduces, and robs us of the wonderful gifts of our own work: tending; bringing forth; growing strong; growing wise; being present; finding meaning.

Through work we receive the ability to give.

Your world is good for me!


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Annie Gardenbed

I aspire to be known as Annie Gardenbed someday - but I aspire to be and do many things, and I can work on only a few at a time, so if someone else earns the name first, I won't be disappointed. I hope this blog post might help that happen.

Why Annie Gardenbed? Well, it's a little play on the name Johnny Appleseed. I'd like to be like Johnny, except that instead of planting apples, I'd be digging new garden plots and getting new gardeners started.

The popular legend is that Johnny wandered all over planting apple seeds almost anywhere, so that whoever came along later could gather apples. As with any legend, the reality is similar but different: John Chapman was a wandering planter of apples, but he planted nurseries in areas where settlers would soon be arriving, and had the seedlings ready to sell to the settlers for their homestead orchards. Still, the legend captures some of the spirit of his life and legacy, in that he lived extremely simply; he was generous in his dealings; and his undertaking was remarkable enough to earn him the nickname "Johnny Appleseed" by about halfway through his long life. The real story, or what we think we know of it, is richer and stranger than the legend, and definitely worth a look.

When I came up with the idea of "Annie Gardenbed," I knew only the popular legend of Johnny, and a related little song that we often use as a mealtime grace:
Oh, the Lord is good to me,
and so I thank the Lord
for giving me the things I need:
the sun and the rain and the apple seed.
The Lord is good to me.
Alleluia, Amen!
Many people sing "Johnny Appleseed" instead of Alleluia in the last line. The song appears in many places unattributed, as if it were a folk tune going back to the days of Johnny himself, but thanks to Cathy's Grace Notes, and some further sleuthing, I learned that it is a verse from a song written by Kim Gannon and Walter Kent for the Walt Disney Music Company in 1946, and sung by Dennis Day in the animated short "Johnny Appleseed" (part of Disney's 1948 release "Melody Time"). The sheet music is still available.

I'm disappointed. Today while washing dishes I came up with a little verse for Annie Gardenbed, but I don't dare tell you what the tune is, or Disney might come after me. I'm not afraid of ordinary mice, but . . .

I think I'll see about a public domain license for my verse, before I post it. That way at least I'll have evidence that I'm not trying to profit from Disney's tune in any way.

Or should I just go ahead an post it anyway?

Friday, October 17, 2008


I can sleep on my left side.

I hadn't been able to do that in years - so many years that I can't remember when the first year was, or how long it took to realize that I might never sleep on that side again. All I know is that I used to try to ignore the clicking in my sternum, or near it; and I used to shift around and try to find a position where I could breathe without that soft click-click, shift-release, on and off with each and every breath; and it didn't hurt, exactly, but it felt very wrong, like it would certainly be hurting later if I let it carry on.

My theory was that some cartilage had been damaged somehow, so my rib cage wasn't quite as solid as it should be. And I didn't think cartilage could heal. So I slept on my right side.

I have never been able to sleep on my belly. On my back, yes, long ago, and still sometimes when I let down my guard. You see, a long time ago I woke suddenly, frantically, sitting straight up in bed from a dream of falling backwards, backwards, into blackness. I think it happened more than once, and then I just didn't sleep on my back unless I rolled there in my sleep without noticing. These days it's not that dreadful dream that wakes me, but the sound of my snoring.

It troubled me a little, having only one position to sleep in, especially when a limb would sleep longer, numb and prickling. Still, I lived with it.

And then I made a change in my life, a change that had nothing to do with the clicking in my chest - at least not as far as I was aware.

And some months later (a year, maybe?) I noticed that I was lying on my left, and my chest wasn't clicking. The click came back sometimes, gently, and I was patient, just trying that side for a little while each evening, turning back if the click returned. Finally it stayed away.

What a sweet moment that was, when I woke and realized that I was lying on my left side.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Harvest Home

Picture this (because I don't know where to find a camera with batteries charged up):
  • onions and beets spread to dry on newsprint
  • cardboard boxes brimming with carrots, potatoes, and squashes
  • bags of dry beans, with the sides rolled down to let the beans dry a little more
This week I'll be storing things away a little better: tucking the onions into old nylons and hanging them on nails on the floor joists in the basement; cleaning up some of the carrots and beets and finding some room for them in the fridge, freezing some others, and maybe drying some for soups, too; and clearing some room in a not-too-cool spot for the squashes to sit with some air spaces between them. The dry beans are experiments. I have been growing Windsor broad (or fava) beans for several years, but never understood what they should look like when mature. Finally I read somewhere that they can be picked when the pods start to turn black, and realized that this was not a sign of disease! I let them dry on the vines, and today we gathered them. Also, as a sort of accidental experiment, we gathered the dry wax beans that we didn't get eaten as fresh beans in the summer. We eat a lot of kidney beans and some chickpeas, lentils, and pinto beans, but all of these are tricky to grow in our short summers, so I want to experiment with some other dry legumes. We'll see!

I am very tired, and very happy. I let myself be led away from the garden path for most of the summer and early fall, and when I heard the word "snow" in the forecast I feared I had left it too long, but the rain and snow held off and we got it all in.

Happy thanksgiving!