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Copyright © 2002 by Ralph Robert Moore.
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Return to lately 2002.
the drizzle outside the windows that goes on for hours
march 23, 2002
It rained most of last week, some days just the drizzle outside the windows that goes on for hours, very pleasantly; Tuesday, in the evening, after Mary was safely home, a hard Texas storm, the big sky down here full of dark water, hail stones bouncing up off the cement walk to our front door.
After all that, our backyard, which is a series of large, brick-bordered gardens with grass paths around, was mossy and weedy. I got out mid-day on Thursday, the 21st, getting down in the middle bed on my gloves and knees, and spent some time pulling up the miscellaneous ferns and vines that had swollen after all the rain.
I really enjoy weeding, because it's just about the only time you're eye-level with your garden. After a shower, the ground is the rich, dark brown of a perfect New Orleans roux, the weeds themselves, saturated with rain, a plump, phosphorescent green, and you get to see all these weird little bugs hopping away from your gloves, some of them as colorful and oddly-angled as Japanese samurai.
Plus weeding involves constant decision-making. Some weeds are easy to pull up, because they never, in their cycle, look attractive. Others, though, their spread ungainly, yet have beautiful, delicate flowers at their tips, to me a beseechment, as if they're saying, We know we're bad, but we do have at least one good thing to offer, like the purse snatcher who, shoulder-grabbed by a cop, whirls around dropping credit cards and currency, and bursts into the chorus of Oklahoma!
One gardener I've always admired is Ryan Gainey, from Atlanta, Georgia, who had a series on American public television during the nineties called The Well-Placed Weed. Unlike other gardening shows, which tend to focus on the practical side of gardening (when to plant what, how to control pests, what new spades are on the market), Gainey would for most of each show simply sit out in his garden, broad-rimmed hat on his head, talking to the camera about the philosophy of gardening, often reading from the notes in his lap (getting mildly irritated whenever a plane would intrude overhead). There was a gentleness and subtlety to his ideas I found admirable. Gardening will do that to you, and here I'm talking more of flower and bush gardening, rather than vegetable gardening. I think it's great to grow vegetables, and sometimes Mary and I do, but the true joy of gardening, for me, is to create a private green world, with other colors here and there, that you can stroll through, stopping to watch a bird climb a tree, or a squirrel disappear. A garden brings immense peace. A garden reacquaints you with the world, puts the artificiality we all go through in life, in perspective. Sometimes I'm tempted to lay down in the garden, between two gardenia bushes, put my ear to the dirt. Would I be able to hear the world? Or do we hear it already, all the time, so constant a sound since our birth we no longer perceive it, much like we can no longer tell the taste of water, since we're born with it in our mouths.
After I weeded for a while, crawling around like some clumsy animal, I planted a Better Boy tomato plant Mary bought the previous week. It was tall and healthy, so I wanted to get it into the ground as soon as possible. It gave me great joy to pluck off its lower leaves, and bury it halfway up in the loose soil (you can bury tomato plants quite a bit up their stems. The buried part of the stem then develops roots.) I peeled some strips off an advertisement, and carefully arranged their encirclement around the plant, to ward off cut worms, who pulsate dumbly through the garden, chewing through everything they come into contact with, except paper.
In 72 days we should have big, heavy tomatoes. I love twisting one off the vine, bringing it indoors, sun-warm and shapely as a red breast, slicing through it, layering it in a sandwich with mayonnaise, salt and black pepper.
I'm eating the Earth.
If you're lying in our bed and looking out past your feet, you'll see a city skyline of different-height rectangular shapes, our TV, our huge stereo speakers, VCR, laser disc player, satellite receiver, etc. Above that, in the sky of the bedroom wall, are a few dozen pictures of us over the years.
The skyline looks untidy, plus we have nowhere to put our pajamas and spare linen, so we've often thought of getting rid of all the TV tables and side carts we have against that wall, and replacing it with a neat arrangement of bureaus. Maybe two bureaus, four feet each. We'll put the TV and all our electronic boxes on top, and use the drawers for storage.
Great idea, but not so easy to realize.
Wednesday, Mary went on a scouting mission, during her lunch, to an unfinished furniture warehouse north of the city.
I need to say here it's only in the past few years I've become familiar with the term, "unfinished furniture". When I first heard it, I was honestly confused as to what it meant, and initially pictured a store that sold tables with only three legs, chairs without a seat, etc. Kind of an April Fool's place.
Mary explained to me the term meant furniture that was structurally complete, but unvarnished.
The warehouse, as it so often does, turned out to be a rather small store. It didn't have anything like what we're looking for.
So we're still hunting.
Recently also, Mary submitted eight photographs of our cats to the 365 Cats Calendar, a desk calendar that features a different cat photograph each day. We'll know this September if any or all of the photographs were selected for their 2003 calendar (watch this space for further developments). We're excited. It'd be a real surge to open the calendar and see our cats in it, knowing people all over the world are looking at pictures of Nei, Elf, Rudo, Chirper and Sheba. Even though we know any such appearance will immediately go to their little heads, to where they see themselves as models now, not just house cats. Wearing dark glasses while they clean their crotches, insisting they only want a tic-tac for dinner, snorting heroin. But hey.
Egg Box is a new British literary journal whose premiere issue generated a lot of favorable notices in the U.K. press. I'm happy to report a story of mine I just finished a month or so ago, Truth Be Told, will be featured in their next issue, on sale in May. This year will also see the appearance in England of my story Fish, in the great British fiction magazine ROADWORKS (this will mark my third appearance in ROADWORKS).
The story I mentioned in my most recent Lately, set in New Mexico, is finished. I'm calling it The Machine of a Religious Man. It came out kind of longish, past the collar as a matter of fact, at a little over 8,000 words. Yesterday I started trying out different opening paragraphs for my next story, which will be a creepy one, called Steaks in the City. At this point, I don't know how it will end, which is both exciting and scary.
The Internet is many things, of course. E-mail, web pages, newsgroups, chat rooms, etc. But to me, one of the most powerful applications of the Internet, and most "Internetish", is the search function. You type in your search word or phrase, and a search engine such as Google or Alta Vista scans through its billions of files to return results. The automatic nature of this process to me most strongly suggests the Internet's artificial consciousness. The Link of the Week this time is to MetaSpy, where you can monitor in real time what search terms people are typing into the search engine MetaSearch, which accesses a number of popular search engines. The page of search requests refreshes automatically every fifteen seconds. The night I tuned in, here's what people around the world were searching for at that moment:
It's like eavesdropping on the Internet while it talks to itself.
The Picture of the Week shows the tomato plant I put in the ground this past Thursday. Grow! Grow!