After 15 years of gardening I decided to call it quits for this year. Too much going on with V and I don’t have the time and energy to devote to it, although this is often the case. I buy and plant with determination and excitement for the new season and then my efforts peter out: I get lazy with weeding and forgetful about watering despite having a snake hose that once set up, I simply have to turn on from the outdoor spigot. Last year I bought a fabric weed barrier at the suggestion of my neighbor who swears by them. (although when I first googled what she called it – a “weed blanket” – I got links to some very nice materials with marijuana insignias on them rather than the gardening cover that she’s right, cuts way back on weeding.) Still, I didn’t feel up to the whole gardening process this year. But then on my birthday I received a knock on the door from my next door neighbor asking if I’d like four tomato plants, as he had bought more than he needed. It was the perfect gift (he had no idea it was my birthday) and has led me to slightly alter my gardenless plan to just include tomatoes and some herbs I still have to get. So I can still play in the dirt, just without too much commitment.
My birthday was nice in a low key way like that. I got up really early and went for a walk before it got hot (92 was the high for this past steamy weekend!) or anyone was up. V went to Friendship Circle and we did our usual nearby shopping (Costco, Trader Joe’s) and then I came home and took it easy for a while. V was in a good mood – he often is, which makes days with no help easier – and he hung out while T made us a midday barbecue. Steak and hot dogs for the carnivorous guys, salmon and an Impossible burger for me.
V is still refusing to go into our big beautiful yard, which is like going to the Frick and not looking at the Rembrandts, missing out on all that beauty right in front of you. It’s still a mystery why he won’t go out to a place that he practically lived in for most summers of his life; like many things with V he can’t explain himself and we are left to try to figure things out. And so yard time has become a solo activity, which is lovely in a way – there’s nothing I like more than lying in the hammock looking up at the trees – and yet how wonderful a large yard is for socializing, and what a waste it feels like not to be out there together in these glorious spring days or even better, to once again have people over. But alas it’s not to be and I work on accepting another yard-deprived season. Instead we went for our favorite walk around the lake at a nearby park that is the one outdoor spot that V still likes these days. And it’s beautiful.
Later T & I watched The Last Waltz while V played on his phone and listened to the music. It’s a brilliant documentary showcasing the Band and an array of guest musicians, including Van Morrison, Joni Mitchell, Muddy Waters, Neil Young and the Staple Singers. I cannot believe it came out in 1978, when I saw and loved it on a big screen in a movie theatre. Watching a great movie on a TV screen is not the same magical experience as watching in communion with an audience and while I really appreciate it the second time around, life creeps in: keeping an eye on V, who sits still and then gets restless; googling all the performers, including the five members of the Band, three of whom would have early deaths; getting up to eat something (why do we always want to eat at the movies, whether at home or in a theatre?) I also put things in a context I didn’t have the first time around: I am aware that I am clear across the country from the stage where the filmed concert takes place, that Scorcese had yet again made a guy-centered movie, with only a few women performers; and that everyone on that stage would either be dead or like me, 44 years older than when the film came out, most still leading creative lives. Some, like Bob Dylan – who turned 80 last year – still on tour, bless him. Others, like Neil Young, are still churning out interesting albums and putting his opinions out into the public square.
We do not go gentle into that good night, we keep as active as we can, we take up new passions and causes, we recommit to projects great and small, we value our friendships and cherish family more than ever, we look at those older than us with reverence and curiosity. At least most of the older people I know do that. Especially women: We may be invisible to the outside world with the exception of an occasional Grace and Frankie, but to those who know us we still have much to contribute. At least that’s how I like to see it. Age is not something to fight but rather to embrace with humor and humility. I am the youngest sibling, the youngest cousin of my generation, the baby of the family now with salt and pepper hair. It’s hard to wrap my head around that and yet it’s a privilege, this getting older.
And so another lap around the sun. I put on my hat and go out to water the tomato plants and then for a long walk, enjoying all of it while I can.