Friday, August 19, 2011
The Ever-Obvious Metaphors of Gardening
Last summer I spent a lot of time on my front porch where I could get wi-fi while I worked with Quraysh on Google Docs to get our book written. I generally am found on the deck in back. It was fortuitous because it was the last summer with my two guardian trees. With last summer's extreme heat and a pressing deadline for the manuscript completion, the garden was left to its own devices. I liken it to a teenager: it thinks it can take care of itself, and it can do okay, but sometimes Mom has to step in and put things in order. Well, Mom did not get to it in 2010.
Last fall I lost the two trees in front of my house because lingering disease was weakening them too much for safety. I called the city and the decision was made to euthanize them. In turn, this was the year to watch, to determine what I could plant that I have never been able to plant because the Norwegian Maple canopy afforded too little light.
As we all know, this has been a summer of extremes and my gardening effort is backlogged once again.This morning it was comparatively cool, dry, lovely. I forsook my morning journal practice to dig in the insane olio of intentional and unintentional overgrowth in my front yard.
I stuck my pitchfork into the soil to loosen a gnarl of plantain, dandelion, forget-me-not, and chicory. It seems that I disturbed a colony of those teeny red ants. I don't think they were ready for the surface, much less their home being destroyed. They swarmed in a frenzy, all over my feet, up my arms, all over the sidewalk. They bit me, leaving little red anthills all over my ankles and arms.
I saw a metaphor for so many human disruptions: the way a housing project will be emptied, such as Cabrini Green in Chicago, displacing a whole population in short shrift. Or the imminent domain backed by a wealthy real estate developer. Or a school community will be disrupted by the decisions of the school board without parent input.
When we have no choice in the changes in our lives, we swarm and we bite. We have witnessed the swarm of teachers and union members in Wisconsin. Last year teachers marched in New Jersey as well. We witnessed students at Detroit's Catherine Ferguson Academy for Young Women sit in to protest closing of their school. We also witnessed some of those same young women arrested for their civil disobedience.
In the long run, we witnessed all that those young ladies and their teachers, their remarkable administrator as well, bring light to their ordeal and then sponsors to save the school, which is so much more than a school. It is the beginning of a new life.
The young women of Catherine Ferguson have quite a bite and now they will thrive for their feisty refusal to be dislodged. My ants may take their territory back as well.