sábado, 25 de octubre de 2014

The plight of the gardener (a gardener’s complaint)

An old Chinese saying goes like this. If you want to be happy for an evening, get drunk; if you want to be happy for a week, go travelling; if you want to be happy for a year, get married; if you want to be happy for the rest of your life, grow a garden. I had this in mind when in January I finally set foot on my first roof terrace. I'd had balconies before and a real garden once, but the latter didn't serve for much in the shade of surrounding buildings. This time I got what I'd been looking for. I wanted to balance my sorry life as a western consumer with shooting some green into the world. I was close a long, long time ago, but I hadn't developed any garden feelings yet at that age. The hours spent in my mother's garden still lingered fresh in my memory. I set out with a two shelf terrace, with herbs and paprika on top and carrots with zucchini and albergina below in a wooden ditch. Some more albergina and zucchini in separate boxes, all fixed from leftover wood and filled with large amounts of dirt, the cheapest stuff available at the garden super. It all had to be carried two floors up. Not bad.
Early days were good. Everything sprang from seeds and most did well. The daily chemtrailing assault by then was running its first quarter and the sky had not yet been saturated as it is today. (Every week is worse than the last, whatever the days look like. And the same goes for months and for years. It's just a descent into hell.)

Anyway, we weren't so depressed at the start. Just bewildered and angry, scared if you will. I tried to forget about the madness by concentrating on my gardener's plight. To protect the plants from the rain which had started falling and which was of course horribly filthy from whatever it was they were spraying, I had built a plexi glass roof over my little vertical garden, like a cabinet to the sun. Later I extended the roof when indeed albergina was seriously hurt by some showers, burning holes in her beautiful, thick leaves. She managed to recuperate quickly once safe, with zucchini's negro belleza not quite that lucky. May was pure horror with nonstop rain and wind, me having a hard time protecting my herd from horizontal shower attacks. June started the road downwards, away from the dying sun, dry and dirty and not even warm, let alone hot, from all the filth in the air. The layer woven on some days captured our own produce for added pleasure. Only the winds of July kept the skies clean for some weeks, the lower parts that is, where we breathe and live. Higher up you were starting to see a deep platinum veil at perhaps 6 kilometres, it's hard to say how high. In August the deepness was covered with a milky veil which kept most of the sun at bay, and in September, a month with a touch of July in it, the overall background colour had turned a plastic grey and our creator in the sky now was barely able to send us their hope and support, remedies that on the Mediterranean coast have always been abundantly available.

Over the summer, the plants suffered tremendously. Zucchini didn't make it, though she did give me some flowers for dinner. Albergina fared much better. She resisted the intermittent attacks of summer, especially the scorching levels of UV raining down when the sun stood high. That's all gone now. September has been easy and rich with produce, not bad for a first year intent considering the hardships getting them through summer. I will need more than a greenhouse for protection next year, I'll need shade. If there is going to be a next year, that is, because at the rate we are going it's starting to look like a pretty filthy winter. And how are we going to escape from that one come next spring? Will mother nature have any strength left?

I've eaten twenty tiny hot paprikas which turned sweet if you let them go red. I've had an equal number of small but wonderfully fresh tasting albergines, I had two growths of rúcula, one before it all went bad and the other in the aftermath when at least the persistent good temperatures and the much weaker sun created something of a green power ambiance which most of the plants seemed to have picked up and joined in with. One of the marías died while being away for a few days. A sudden July flash flood had seriously damaged her roots. It was all too wet and the leaves were burning. All three marías suffered heavy leave loss at some moment during summer and they sort of scraped through, but for this drowned goddess it wasn't going to be. The other two are fighting to produce enough honey before the lights go out on the season, probably come early this year.
My roof garden will celebrate its first year of the new era shortly after winter. Be it still a while away, already the contract between plant life and caretaker is feeling much like a marriage. I hadn't thought it would be quite as difficult as it turned out to be under the unforeseen circumstances. I had done smaller projects before, to the availability of space and sunshine, and they had mostly worked out to the satisfaction of both plant and man, under the sorry circumstances.

I shouldn't be whining and complaining so much, I know. When I started out, the spraying had already begun so inside I knew it was going to be a very difficult year. I understood anything I managed to get out of my garden would be seriously contaminated. I sensed I was tending a garden not so much as to help reduce the footprint as well as out of despair. Nothing in this world can balance the amounts of poison thrown out over our heads around the world. So what I have been doing up here was never more than a protest, than a cry of anger, than silent, stubborn resistance. Yet I feel betrayed. Whoever are behind the spraying programme, they could have given us a few more years. If they so desperately need to get rid of us, they might as well let us wither away, see what comes.
Unfortunately these days, America seems to be on a death trip and the whole world will go down with her if nobody steps in. There are candidates, I hear, but not all can find everybody's approval. So we'll see how long we last. Meanwhile I continue tilling the soil, squeeze out the last juices and prepare for a winter setup with onions and potatoes and some cabbage, I guess.
I hope it will last.