Monday, April 15, 2013

A Different Perspective

I always looked forward to the days when I taught Tennyson in my British literature survey courses. Of course, if I'm perfectly honest, I also loved the days for Virginia Woolf, Tony Harrison, Philip Larkin, and quite a few others...but I see I'm already getting off track. Especially enjoyable was the day in the course when we discussed "The Lotos-Eaters" and "Ulysses" together. These two poems counterbalance one another, the former focusing on rest and relaxation and the latter touting activity and adventure. For a long time, I sided with Ulysses, who complains that life is too short just to sit down and do nothing. But as I get a little older, I am discovering the merits of those "lazy" Lotos-Eaters, who want a respite and to enjoy themselves.

Actually, the Lotos-Eaters make an argument for rest that most gardeners would be hard-pressed to contradict, as they compare themselves to nature:

All its allotted length of days
The flower ripens in its place,
Ripens and fades, and falls, and hath no toil,
Fast-rooted in the fruitful soil. (lines 80-83)

But then there's Ulysses with all of his nervous energy:

How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnished, not to shine in use!
As though to breathe were life! (lines 22-24)

I'm certain that nearly every gardener has a bit of Ulysses in her (or him). You know exactly what I'm talking about. You create a beautiful garden people just want to sit in and enjoy. You proudly agree to join them, but the second your backside hits the swing, you see a weed, spring up as if you're on an ejection seat, and you're off tidying things up whilst your guests are left to shout to you through the bushes. It can be a little embarassing.

Of late, I have been trying to channel my inner Lotos-Eater, relaxing a bit more in my garden and enjoying it. But forever in the background is that "Type A" Ulysses, reminding me that there is much work to do in the garden. So this past weekend, my inner Ulysses won...up to a certain point.

I have two large rain barrels in the backyard. One is white and currently being overtaken by a bush, thus blending it into the landscape. The other is in the vegetable garden and is a shocking electric blue. Turfman has not been a fan of its garish presence. Now, I'm a lover of power tools. I look for any reason to use them and to use a wide array of them. So last year when Turfman first brought up his desire for the blue rain barrel to be camouflaged, I decided that I would build vertical planters on the sides (jigsaw, compound miter saw, power drill). Those turned out to be less than successful. We dismantled them a few weeks ago when we had the house painted. We added that wood to the pile of wood I had from dismantling my compost bins (which have been replaced with homemade bins that are less susceptible to animal infiltration...don't ask). So there stood the ugly rain barrel, out in the open for all to see again. And then I had an idea: why not build a small shed on one side of the barrel to house all my garden supplies? The other side could just be a wall upon which I could hang wide planters. And the roof could be a green roof.

Now had I been a true Ulysses, I would have built the entire thing, but those Lotos-Eaters inside me are gaining some ground. They were reminding me that if I did build the entire structure, seal the green roof and plant it up, my legs would find it impossible to walk me into work this morning. So I stopped even before affixing the door (though I still can barely walk today). I recognize that in it's half-finished form, it does have the look of an outhouse, what with the downspout appearing like a chimney, but I'm certain once I finish the other half and get the green roof in place, it will look much better. And that barrel will have to get a paint job. It's just far too out there. 
The new garden shed!
Inside the shed

I had to buy just a little bit of wood, but everything else is reclaimed from the previous two failed projects. The camera perspective in the inside shot makes it look a little like something the Mad Hatter might have, but I can assure you that it is completely symmetrical. And really, that's all we need in life--a slightly different perspective.

I love taking close shots of my flowers, but I realized this weekend that I rarely pan out to take in the full view, the larger home in which a given flower lives. When I crouched in the grass to capture this Salvia farinacea "Evolution White" (purchased last year from Santa Rosa Gardens), I had to remind myself to take in the larger picture, give myself a different point of view. When I did, I saw that the salvia held a different beauty in the context of its neighbors.
"Evolution White" Salvia, soft and fuzzy

The salvia in its larger context
And that's what I've come to value about both "The Lotos-Eaters" and "Ulysses"--they provide a different perspective, two ways of looking at things that are equally valid and are probably best taken in equal measure. Sure, it's great to work, to break out the power tools, to accomplish something, but it's pretty incredible to take a different perspective, sit back, and enjoy the view, too.

Now for the big seed giveaway winner, chosen at random by Turfman reaching into the garden hat: Maureen! Give me a shout, and I'll get those in the mail to you!

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