Tuesday, March 22, 2005

The Garden Song

Spring rushes in on the wings of a rainstorm, the same as squalling winter's exit. The winter rains came late this year, beginning about a day after the Agriculture department declared Humboldt County an aggie disaster area because of drought.

The gardens that haven't washed away must be loving it. The North Coast is replete with gardens and gardeners. Whereas dinner conversations in western PA tended to be about snow tires (up until the late 80s, when they were about computers) and in Cambridge about Asian cuisine restaurants, on the North Coast the favorite topic is gardens and the vegetables and so on that grow in them.

Margaret is the gardener here; I'm the help. Her front yard stops traffic, but she's outdone herself with the new strawberry patch of spiraling layers, a sort of strawberry swirl. She's cultivated every inch of ground in the back, but I claim a certain credit for her potted tomato plants. My wish for my first basketball hoop and court meant the cement driveway didn't get extracted in favor of bare dirt, so the tomato plants are mostly in big barrels. There aren't too many thriving tomato gardens in Arcata as far as I know, but we've got one, and I'll bet it has something to do with the reflective and heat-retaining properties of my b-ball court.

Anyway, I pick the strawberries and the tomatoes. Tomatoes are part of my Italian youth; my grandparents had them, and two of our neighbors had a large patch (we were related somehow to them, and apparently all Italians in the county) so the smell of tomato plants always means summer to me. Come September, there would be baskets of tomato and green peppers left on the back porch.

Margaret goes to Quaker Meeting every Sunday, and you may be surprised to learn, as I was, that besides their mostly silent service, the Quakers sing. In honor of the first Sunday of spring they sang the Garden Song.

Inch by inch, row by row
All you need is a rake and a hoe
And a piece of fertile ground
Inch by inch, row by row
Someone bless these seeds I sow
Someone warm them from below
Til the rains come tumbling down.

There is also an anti-Garden song, which they also sang:

Slug by slug, weed by weed
My garden's got me really teed
All the insects love to feed upon my tomato plants
Sunburned face, scratched-up knees
My kitchen's choked with zucchinis
I'm shopping at the A and P next time I get a chance.

Either way, it's a North Coast song. Except for the A and P.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Welcome to This North Coast Place

Greetings from the North Coast of California.

People who live here consider it a special place. But why? Why are people committed to living on the North Coast? What actions result from that commitment? What should be preserved, and what should change? What are the opportunities, and what are the responsibilities?

In his book, Becoming Native to This Place, Wes Jackson suggests that the key to making these judgments is to feel and act as if one's commitment is that of a native, with the knowledge and roots of family and culture in a particular place going back many generations. Poet and activist Gary Snyder has been making this point for decades.

This blog is meant to be a forum to discuss this idea and these questions. Every week I will add new content for discussion. For those unfamiliar with "web logs" or "blogs," the process is pretty simple. My posts are dated, so the most recent appears at the top of the page. At the bottom of each post there is a line that says "comments" ("0 comments" or "2 comments" etc., indicating how many comments there are.) Click on this to read other people's comments, and add your own.

For more on how to use "Comments," click here.

SITE CONTENTS (click to go there)
Weather or Not

Indian Island Vigil 2005

The North Coast and More About This Site

Native Peoples of the North Coast

Earthquake Country

Incredibly Ancient but Still Changing (geology)

Mapping the Territory

For more on subjects discussed here, please go to the companion site, North Coast Texts.

For bio and links to my work, please see my home page and portal.