I got a tattoo.
I feel a little silly saying it since there is something kind of odd really about having artwork permanently etched onto one’s body. And despite what anyone has ever told you, getting a tattoo hurts. So, paying someone to essentially scratch me repeatedly for hours on end with a cluster of seven needles on a vibrating pen that introduces ink to the wound that will hopefully, if all goes well, become a permanent scar on my body… yeah, that’s a bit odd.
I’m only really getting just how odd now that it’s there. I’m very glad that I decided to wait until I was old enough to be sure about what I was putting on my body. Had I gone ahead at the age of consent I might be stuck with Morrissey’s mug on my arm or… I don’t want to imagine the humiliating possibilities… I shudder to think.
Here’s the outline only minutes after completion in all of it’s swollen and painful glory:
- My spouse Davin drew the illustration. I wanted it to be unique to me and having it come from him was important. We enjoy collaborating on art projects, although in this case I was less involved in the making. My role was to bear the pain and permanently host the art.
- The work was done by India Amara.
- It’s based on an unknown wild tomato that comes up as a volunteer in my community garden plot every year. I wanted something that, in my mind, represented resilience, perseverance, and determination.
- I decided on a tomato plant for pretty obvious reasons — it’s my favourite plant to grow!
I really like the tattoo although I am second-guessing going back at a later date to have it shaded. I’m starting to think it might be good enough as-is. These doubts about follow-up work started a day ago and were cast by the itching.
Oh the itching. Someone please make the itching stop!
The tattoo itself just started itching yesterday but that itching was previously usurped by the massive bandage and paper tape allergy that has erupted on the underside of my arm. I have a giant red welt underneath my arm and a smaller one just next to it. But now that the scabbing is in full effect the tattoo itself has begun to itch. Imagine, if you will, that a cat has gone to town on your arm. And now those scratches have scabbed over. Ouch! There were some horribly wincing moments during the tattooing process, but I have a fairly high pain tolerance and those moments were lingering. I started to get irritated with the process by the end but never once thought about stopping. But the itching… the itching may take me down yet. So now the tattoo has a whole new meaning to add to the symbolism.
Is this thing on?
I’m experiencing a bit of stage fright, sitting here staring at the screen. It’s been so long since I’ve been here. Not here as in sitting at this computer staring at the screen. I’ve been to that “here” TOO much over the last few months. No I mean here, here. To this site, here. It’s been so long since I’ve pulled my head out of the cave I’ve been living in. Pulled my nose up from against the grindstone, so to speak. Reintegration is going to take some time and patience. When I thought I might write here today my first thought was, What will I say?
So much has happened and yet nothing has happened. I haven’t done any gardening so there are no recent experiences to draw from. And yet I just finished writing roughly 75, 000 words on the act of gardening. And I just spent hours upon hours looking through the thousands of photos of gardens and gardening that I took over the last year. I am immersed in gardening to the point of collapse and yet I have nothing to say.
The brain is tapped. I need a refill.
And so first some pictures. A little Dazzle Camouflage (aka Dazzle Ships), if you will. Because when I can’t speak with words, I can often find a way to say something with a picture. Although I’ll admit I don’t know what these say. Squash is pretty?
And also, wow America. It took a while for it to sink in today. I think I was afraid to believe it was real. But it is real. My excitement is swelling. I have been thinking about the Nina Simone song “Blackbird.” (Sorry I couldn’t find a version online) The first line goes, “Why you wanna fly blackbird, you ain’t ever gonna fly.” I’m a big Nina Simone fan and have long turned to that song in moments of hopeless despair. She expresses so fully that sense of deep longing and wishing for the impossible. The fear that to wish and then to turn that wish into an action (hope) will lead to more despair and pain. It’s always amazing to see a concrete example of what can happen when people take a chance — even if just a small one — to put hope into action. And so I’m then reminded of this Nina Simone song.
I’m so happy for you, America. Happy for all of us.
p.s. I have zillions of unanswered emails in my inbox. I promise to get back to you soon.
Over the weekend I stuck my head out of my hermit den long enough to notice that winter is coming. All of the signs are there, I’ve just been pretending not to see them. The first and most obvious being that it is cold. We haven’t turned on the heat yet but it’s getting there. The days are getting shorter, the trees are turning colour, squashes are showing up at all the corner shops, and the plants are dying back. And so, because I can’t go on putting it off and pretending that the world has stood still around me while I race towards the finish line with a big project, I spent some time over the weekend doing something about it. The biggest job I tackled was to empty out all of the terra cotta and ceramic pots, scrub them clean and then put them all away. Except for the pile that are still sitting on the kitchen floor. I don’t know where to put those yet. Seems that I acquired a few too many new containers this year and have reached beyond maximum capacity.
I had managed to take in the sensitive plants before the frost hit, however, this portion of garden cleanup is just as critical and had to be done sooner rather than later. Last year I put it off until it was too late and ended up rushing everything indoors at the last possible second, setting several pots of frozen soil in my “living room” to thaw. I must have the most patient partner in the world. I don’t think he complained about it even once. But letting it happen again would be taking advantage of his tolerance and patience. And kind of ridiculous if not impossible since we managed to squeeze a small couch into the living room this year leaving no space for frozen pots of soil.
The roof garden, August 4, 2008.
Yesterday evening, while doing some photo work, I came upon pictures I took of the roof garden during the summer months. Looking at the pictures hurt, causing an ache and longing for the garden even though it isn’t even done yet. I just hate this time of year. While I have come to appreciate the look of the garden as it decays and goes dormant I just dread knowing that I am about to enter a period of dormancy myself. That for the next 4 months or so I will only have the indoor plants to keep me going. I miss being outside in the garden. I miss the warm air and the smells. I miss touching the plants. I miss waiting for the tomatoes to ripen. I miss my dirty fingernails. I miss all of it. I even miss the difficult work.
Anyways, I think it’s about time I announced that I probably won’t be posting here for the next few weeks. I’m in the final throws of finishing the first big stage of this project and the schedule has been so demanding over the last few months that it’s been impossible to keep up. I think it’s been fairly evident for some time now considering how little I have posted here in the last while. I’ve put off saying anything about it because I keep telling myself that maybe I will have a moment but I have been kidding no one but myself. When I have a moment I want to spend it resting. The brain and the body are weary. So very weary. I might duck in to post a Daily Botanical. I’m going through a lot of photos and taking stock and often run into something that I had forgotten about. I’ll be fully back eventually, once I’m done this leg of things and my mind and body has had a chance to come down from the mania of it.
In the meantime, happy gardening.
- Homesteading — the kind that involved living in tents and no machinery — was terribly difficult. I’m sure of it. Of course I already knew this, camping merely drove that point home in a new way. Simple tasks take longer, requiring more planning.
Who wants tea? Well, first you’ve got to make a fire. This might require collecting wood. It will also require making flames first thing in the morning when you are still half asleep. Then you’ve got to wait an eternity for that fire to get hot. Then you’ve got to wait another absurd length of time for the water to heat up. You will probably give up and settle for a lukewarm beverage, if you can wait that long. If there is one thing I hate to go without it is my morning genmaicha. Some campers look forward to that first indulgent post-camping meal. My favorite post-camping experience came the next morning when I got up to make my morning tea. The whole thing was accomplished in minutes with a mere flick of a button. No dangerous half-asleep fire starting required.
- Here’s something you should know before setting out to camp in the wilderness. There are these little insects called Deer Flies. They look an awful lot like regular flies with one exception: regular flies are annoying but basically harmless, while deer flies slice off chunks of your flesh using their special slicing mouth parts. I am convinced that they are collecting human meat for Satan. There is no other explanation. After suffering through five days of their menace, mosquitoes are beginning to look downright civil, polite even. Sure they leave a bump that itches for days and days but by god deer flies have left an indelible scar on my psyche that no ointment will ever heal.
- Note for the future: Do not allow me to camp with small children. Not because camping is hard (except that it is) but because when faced with legions of biting insects, strong winds, and four hours of arm-breaking canoing I am unable to prevent the steady stream of elaborate cursing that will inevitably come pouring from my mouth. Please, think of the children.
The best way to learn what makes a plant tick is to see it growing in the wild. I consistently glean a lot of knowledge from these experiences. This trip taught me tons about blackberries and blueberries. Both were in season and both were easily found just about anywhere we went. Blackberries were always fully exposed, growing where the sun shone brightly and the soil was poor or non-existent. Sometimes it grew in the sand right at the water’s edge or in open meadows sitting alongside wetlands. Blueberries tended to be underneath the shade of larger coniferous trees or just on the edge of forests. They were always found among the low, sprawling juniper bushes.
Blackberries growing out of a rock.
Check out the view behind me.
Wild Blueberries. Tasty and FREE! Foraging makes me feel like I’ve scored the most awesome deal in town. Sure I have to do the work but still…. FREE. Picking them by hand has given me a whole new appreciation for the price of a pint of wild blueberries.
Picking Blueberries. Note the coniferous trees both big and small. The ground was basically granite and pine needles.
- Here’s a tasty camp dessert that I made up on the spot utilizing our foraged berries and provisions we had on hand. Add some sugar and fruit juice to a bowl of wild berries. Break up a few slices of bread into small chunks and add to the mix. Set it aside for 30 minutes or so allowing the bread to soak up the juices. Wrap it all up in foil and set over the fire to cook for about 15 minutes. Enjoy. Go ahead and lick the foil but try to avoid cutting your tongue.
Making foraged wild berry dessert. I look high here but I promise you the only thing I inhaled on this trip was fresh, super oxygenated air. And a lot of campfire smoke. I like to make fires so fire-starter was my self-appointed role.
- Camping in the rain is another kind of tricky. Have to go to the bathroom outdoors in the rain? Try to hold it in. That’s all I have to say about that.
- I have a lot to learn about plants. And mushrooms… forget about it. Better to assume they are all poisonous.
- Camping is a reminder of how easy we have it, a demonstration in the excesses in our modern lives that we can probably do without. I learned that baking soda really is the miracle powder. You can use it to scrub dishes, wash hair, brush teeth, and remedy bee stings. It really doesn’t taste that bad when used as toothpaste.
- I can tolerate all manner of dry, bland food when forced. Being surrounded by beautiful landscape makes everything go down easier.
We’re going camping! I haven’t been really, truly camping since I was a kid. As a non-driver I’ve never been able to get my feet wet in the world of tent pitching in the wilderness since getting out of the city into the great outdoors is a bit of a jaunt without a car. Sure we could take a bus and then hike it out into the forest or take an epic bike ride to the outer regions but I can’t say that any of those possibilities have ever entered my mind as options. I’m enthusiastic, just not THAT enthusiastic.
Anyways, we’re very excited about this trip and have been frantically preparing for it for the last two months. The very first thing I did was pull out “Let’s Get Primitive” by Heather Menicucci a book I blurbed a year or so back. Reading Heather’s book the first time ignited a spark in me to rekindle a childhood love of camping and the book really proved to be exceptionally handy as a second time read now that we’re really going to do it. Even my partner Davin gave it a read-through, taking notes along the way of items we might need, proving that books with “girl” in the title are useful for those of the male persuasion as well. I think he also liked that it gave him an excuse to indulge in his insatiable love for M.E.C. He’s always looking for an excuse to go in and browse or pick up some such piece of equipment for this or that, primarily bike-related. All I have to say is that we had better become avid campers after this because we’ve got a whole lot of gear and nowhere to store it. I have a feeling that we’re going to be sharing the living room with a tent, sleeping bags, and self-inflating sleeping mats for the next two months. Yes, we have self-inflating sleeping mats. We don’t have proper rain gear during the rainiest summer on record, but by god our backs will be “cushioned” on a pad that inflates itself with air. Unfortunately the mat does not deflate itself. Or generate heat. Or keep biting insects away. For that I plan to employ three brands of herbal bug spray simultaneously.
Of course as a gardener and plant lover I am most excited about the plants. I have already packed my Edible Wild Plants book and am considering creating space for a wild flowers field guide. A bug book might be handy too. And another that covers trees. Davin is packing a bird field guide. That should just about cover it.
We’ll be four or five days without internet access. I have set some photos and posts to go live while I’m gone. However, if you don’t hear from me by next Friday then all I ask is that someone water the plants.