Posts Tagged ‘memories


notes on gardening in the new year

we’ve been through a lot, she and i.


she stood on a globe with shooting stars circling it, a butterfly perched on her right hand, offered up to the gods like a tithe, the astral winds pulling at her gown, defining her voluptuousness. it would have been easy to walk right by her, many had, but she drew me to her with her simple, pleasant expression, her rather demure demeanor, eyes downcast, hesitant and hopeful as if at the next moment she would lift her face to you and speak.

she came home with me from an antique store on clark st. just north of fullerton in chicago on a rainy day in 1975 when i was on one of my long walks. i think i paid $95 for her (a lot of money then) and was told she was made around the turn of the century (20th) and was composed of ‘white metal’–which, at the time, i was too afraid of not knowing what it meant, that i didn’t ask what ‘white metal’ was–it was years later that i found out, but many years before wikipedia. i set her on the top of an old wooden secretary desk in my high-rise studio apartment and she resided there, close to the ceiling for a few years, taking note of my failures (many) and triumphs (few) and then followed me from one encampment to the next, losing the butterfly along the way, (was it 18th st., wolfram st., wolcott ave., piiholo rd.? idk.), until i landed in california (amethyst ave., crystal sands dr.) where she became a garden ornament.

she didn’t weather well. an arm fell off. i saved it for a few years, then threw it away when she separated from the globe she’d been standing on. i kept the globe and stuck her one foot into the ground and watched the ivy claim her, and then i would pull that away, but the ivy had different plans and the next time i found her she’d been embraced once again by it’s tendrils and intentions. the globe on its art nouveau base still exists and is sitting next to her, just out of view to the left. the gilt has long disappeared and she’s been pock-marked from the heat, the dry, the rain, and the sun until her surface is rough and uncomfortable to touch.

a few months ago, i rescued her from laying upright against the base of the birdbath where she’d taken up residency a few years before. protected from the bird’s droppings by the overhang of the clay bowl, but still majestic in her own way. this ‘rescue’ involved laying her on a patio table and ignoring her for months, not sure what to do with her. i’ve been slowly ‘de-accessioning’ the garden: when plants die, i’m letting the ivy take over, when the honeysuckle needed removing, i pulled out the trellis and threw it away; the decorative birdhouses that housed hummingbirds and wrens, but fell on hard times, have been tossed, my intention is less time devoted to maintenance, although my gardening motto is “benign neglect”. it’s just too much anymore–as long as the garden’s schedule conflicts with my own. there may come a day when i’ll “re-up” and have the time to devote to it, but that’s not now.

but what to do about her? and her companion, whom i’ve not even mentioned–she once held a round walnut clock in her outstretched art deco hands, perky breasts and luxurious thighs sitting on a walnut base, but somewhere along the line, she lost those and became a sister to the goddess. she, too, has stories to tell, but she’s the soul of discretion, you’ll not get a word out of her.

for now, they’ll lay here, moldering, but not unloved. one day, i may have the heart (and the courage) to toss them, but not yet, i’m not quite ready to let go of those times and motivations, those yeses and nos, the glitter and the tarnish.


the effects of aging on a 6’4″ caucasian male

1. whenever you pass a mirror, look directly into your eyes. you will be thankful you did as it helps mitigate the horror of seeing your body sagging (cake in the rain syndrome.)

2. your ears and your nose take on a life of their own as they continue to grow.

3. hair growth and loss: what falls from your head lands on your ears and shoulders. expect your leg hair to disappear from your calves and thighs, but grow on the tops of your toes. the whole experience is similar to continental shift. of course, you can expect it to grow faster where you don’t want it, than it will where you do.

4. your jawline begins to meld into your neck. in fact, all of your edges, the sharp angles of youth, begin to fade as if an artist had decided that they were unhappy with their life drawing and had started erasing the outside lines.

5. you become invisible to young people. not children necessarily, but certainly the 15-25 group look right through you as if you did not exist. (example: shop at the gap/old navy.)

6. you’ll begin to need to pee every half-hour and it becomes harder. say good-bye urinal and hello toilet!

7. the belly. it happens. whether beer or butter, if you’re as tall as i am, it will automatically find its way to your belly. not your legs or your arms and definitely not to your chest. as a consequence you will look like the saint-exupéry drawing of a snake who has eaten a bowler hat turned on its end.

8. you’ll need more sleep and find it harder to sleep longer. naps become mandatory should there be an extra hour in your day for you to lay your balding head and hairy ears down on a pillow.

9. why does everyone insist upon speaking at the same time? if you want me to hear you, speak directly to me. (i am not ready for a hearing aid, damn it.)

10. you’ll have crystal clear memories from 30 years ago, but cannot remember what tv show you watched last night.

11. there’s more, of course, but much of it is too graphic for such delicate sensibilities as my readers exhibit.


the snail and the leaf, a parable

nothing happened. the snail made its way slowly across the sidewalk, ignoring the leaf i had placed in its way, and leaving behind it its silvery trail of slime. there are times in the late afternoon when the sun is just so in the sky that the sidewalks shimmer with snail’s trails, beautiful silvery ribbons of goo with little breaks every few inches where the snail has pulled up and off the sidewalk in order to move itself forward. at night they congregate in a mosh pit of snail love, all one upon the other; if you’re very still you can hear henry rollins and black flag just before he throws himself shirtless off the stage into the arms of his raving fans [although that may be my memory of seeing them perform at the mud club in chicago in 198_, but whatever. –author]


untitled (the past imperfective)

he will always be with you; he left himself in everything he created and in all of those he knew and loved. that action, the act of his creating, of his loving is a continuous loop of film, a helix of time through which we make contact here, and here, and here (and forever. each time we touch it, we may weep, we may flail about in frustration, we may love, and we may choose to speak of his talent, his friendship, his wit, his life.) the confusion of the sudden loss seems unfathomable, it is a question without an answer; it just is. i won’t tell you that it gets better, that time makes it bearable, why should i lie to you? it scares you, his loss is a worry now, a nub, a bead that can be rolled between your fingers, picked at, murmured to; you’ll catch yourself with it at the oddest times. and then, you’ll see him in the crowd at the ________ just out of the corner of your eye, missing him when you look directly in that direction; he’ll cross in front of you and all you’ll see is his shadow, coattail, hair, black eyes flashing. those moments will startle you and calm you. you’ll appreciate their appearance (not that you’ll hope it’s true, but that he was there for just that heartbeat–from his to yours.) although i do not know what took him from you (and you may not either, truly), the actions of the past, those ongoing activities, emotions, events are still alive though and as imperfect as they may seem now, they will always continue to exist in the past and that is the gift he left for you.


the garden (tradition & contemplation)

the garden, seen through the glass of the sliding doors on a rainy day, appears to take some pleasure in this break from the relentless sunshine of the california coast.  its colors are richer (alright, they have been somewhat enhanced digitally,) but that ‘help’ brings them into line with what i am feeling about the garden on this particular day/moment/lifetime.

the garden, when seen through the scrim of memory takes on new meaning:  it is romantic & mysterious & warm & distant; it invites you closer all the while pushing you back & when you look at it through this veil you begin to contemplate (& yes, remember) this time of year as one of eager anticipation (the holidays!) & dread (the holidays!)

the garden, this time, brings to mind thanksgivings past (childhood:  cook a dish, drive to aunt & uncle’s — or grandparents, play by self or try to help by setting the table, avoid the ‘game’ on tv, the smell of beer lightly sprinkled with salt — my uncle — avoiding my cousin by sitting in the upstairs bathroom on the carpeted floor & reading ‘men’s detective magazines’ with their promises of sin, sex, & men); of course, that’s just one memory, there are many more & as the curtain is drawn back, little sparks of color begin to sparkle & shimmer in the rain & blossom into more recent memories (more on that later,  i’m not done yet with this past.)

the garden then, even then a memory, is still a cypher, a golden sheen of time pushing back at the sparks/bumps/textures/odors of my fading personal history.   what this time of year & this rainy day & this garden do fully reveal are my fondest memories of time well spent.   they are not specific (& yet, they are.)  they are not fully realized in technicolor & dolby stereo (& heavens, there is not 3-D.)  justly & so, they are seen in snatches of wind-blown photos & rainy days hidden behind glass & fabric & fog & time.



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© Robert Patrick, and Cultivar, 2008-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts, photographs and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Robert Patrick and Cultivar with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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