Thursday, April 24, 2008

A Tree Grows. At least half of it does.

So many have waxed poetic about the coming and arrival of spring. (Or the serious lack thereof.) And I thought I'd just throw some confetti into the discussion about the scourge of spring -- the ugly underbelly, if you will. Because I'm cynical and contrarian like that. Muawhahahahaha. Let's get started.

Back in March, Bella and I spent a chilly Saturday indoors making newspaper seed pots, backhoeing them them with dirt, violently poking in seeds, and then drowning them in water. (I'm discovering the late three's are nothing if not subtle.) But, you know, just about every pot took off, and suddenly I became rather nervous wondering where on earth -- or IN earth, as it may be -- I would put all this eggplant, pepper, cucumber, and floral varieties.

And then April happened. It was not a good month, filled with recuperating dogs, barfy kids, sleep deprivation, thrown schedules, police reports, insurance adjusters, foot appointments, last minute parties for 50, awkward conversations. Oh, and multiple visits by architects, engineers and contractors, which necessitated moving around our boxes of seeds from room to room until I finally lost track of where they last were, and they wound up in a place not on my daily path, and then the porch needed cleaning for a party, and suddenly I realized a few days had gone by without water, and when I finally located the boxes (the ones my cat hadn't upset on the floor) they looked like this:

I am a vegetable killer. A flower murderer. The good news I suppose is that I don't need to find a place in the yard for all of this. How to explain it to the kid . . .

Spring is also a time for weeds. We have an interesting one around here:

Pretty, no? It's a weed. Onion grass. And it can't be killed by normal weed killer, only by pulling up the entire thing, bulb and all. Most people just kinda embrace them (if you can't beat it and all that), but they only look good for a bit when they're in bloom (Read: daylight hours, for about a week). The other times (weeks prior, and when the sun isn't out) they look like someone forked your lawn but with chives, and the lawn mower claims those aren't in the job description. Gotta just wait for the whole shabang to dry up and die.

And then there's the magnolia. So pretty in bloom. But the aftermath decidedly not so much:

Brown, rotting masses floating on scraggly branches while we all wait for the leaves to open and fill this thing in. Right now it just looks, well, hung over.

And then there's the volunteer maple that a neighbor gave us. No worries, he said, it's free, I don't want it, no pressure if it doesn't work out.

Clearly a case of one hand not communicating with the other.


Spring is also the time for animal babies, if the bedtime stories are to be believed. And indeed, a number of weeks ago, a neighbor emailed me that her horse (kept out in a stable by my aunt's, coincidentally) was pregnant. And you know what my first reaction was? Jealousy. Of a FUCKING HORSE! REALLY! (I'M SHOUTING!) But here's why just so you don't think I maybe need to check the meds: I was really struck by just how purely natural this all was. Animals mate, animals have babies. Duh! Just like in the storybooks. Just like PEOPLE are supposed to do. That's how we continue as a species, yes? The mating and getting pregnant and having babies sequence? Then why in holy fuck is it so difficult and convoluted and expensive and sad? And then there's the awwwww factor that just kills me. Of course my neighbor tells me all this about her pregnant horse because she wants Bella to see the future offspring. And Bella these days is ALL about mommies and babies -- one must have the other, or else there's a lot of plaintive calling, and cooing, "where are youuuuuu?" until the correct configuration of stuffed animals (or trains, or any object worthy of anthropomorphization) is achieved. (Woe to she who cannot summon baby panda at bedtime.)

But of course, assisted reproduction and death are all part of the current animal kingdom, too. My equestrian aunt informs me that most horse matings are fixed (that is to say, planned -- mating a certain stallion with a certain mare for a certain genetic mix), and many these days are done via artificial insemination to prevent any injuries during mating (hubba hubba). (not.) Ditto for many animals in captivity whose reproductive highlights and woes are splashed around the metro sections when crime dips and editors need stories. The birds around here for some reason that escapes me chose not to make nests in any number of trees on my property, but make them behind the shutters on my three story stone house. So it's rather a common spring time occurrence to walk the perimeter of said house and collect dead baby birds (and of course, hold funerals for them). And how many of us know of a litter of puppies or kittens that didn't entirely make it? (Top this: my high school boyfriend's cat had kittens, one of which died when a ceremonial mask that hung on the basement wall freakishly fell down and crushed it. I KNOW.)

Last Friday morning, completely sleep deprived, with a day of party prep ahead of me, I opened an email from my neighbor time-stamped from the middle of the night: the mare delivered her filly. The mare did not survive the birth.

I won't lie, I wept. I whipped off a consolation email, got on the phone with my aunt, and within hours had sorted out all sorts of numbers of people who knew people who helped motherless foals. I've only received a short message from my neighbor (who was also dealing with Passover that weekend) but it sounds as though so far everything is ok, and some of my cobbled-together information helped.

Spring is like this, I suppose. Full of promise, most of which works out just fine and fills our photos with buds and little fuzzy creatures, nuzzling their mamas. I'm not nearly as checked-out as last spring, but I'm not really enamored by the beauty, either. Instead, I find myself gravitating toward the missteps that -- lo and behold -- happen in nature all the time. The weeds. The ugly. The assistance. The lack of assistance. The inconceivable deaths. The inevitable deaths. I'm too cynical to find beauty in any of this, but I am finding that I'm not alone in my reproductive mishap, and perhaps feeling a little less statistically challenged. Not that I'll do it again, mind you, but that I have a bit of company in the "it shouldn't happen that way" department.


Bon said...

i too gravitate toward the missteps, the other stories out there that do not end up in the happy mama-baby pairs populating Bella's (and Oscar's) books. i think they help me feel as though i am, after all, part of some cycle of life, some natural order, if you will, that includes life AND death...that i am not as abnormal as i feel sometimes, looking around me.

when the missteps are my own, though, like the plants? oh, there is wailing and gnashing of teeth.

CLC said...

I think your weeds are pretty! But maybe I need to see the after the flowering part.

But the rest of your post is spot on. Granted, I like the look of spring over the look of January, but spring isn't all roses. The story about the mare broke my heart. Her poor baby, now motherless.

Sorry about the plants. If it's any consolation I had been trying to grow a tree (inside, from seeds) in honor of Hannah, and I couldn't even get a sprout. I finally threw it out. So at least you got the seeds to bud or whatever you want to call it.

Julia said...

I usually kill green stuff, and then feel horrible, so I haven't been trying. But lately, with everyone and their sister showing off lovely gardening on their blogs, I have been tempted. But I kill green things... Tough, tough.

Jo(e) has been writing of her weekend at the monastery and sheep birthings. The storied of dead baby sheep and of orphans... many, many of both. I couldn't even comment on those posts.

STE said...

First: "anthropomorphization"
I think this is my favorite word ever.

I have recently come across a show on some health channel that follows the stories of people waiting for and undergoing heart transplants.

Today they had a 6-month old boy who had some major congenital heart defect and needed a transplant. After the surgery, the mother tearfully thanks the family of the donor. I must have played that three times. All I could focus on was that dead baby and his/her family. Finally, recognition.

I was pleased, initially, by the profile of two parents who lost a 1-year old boy and donated his organs, but he died from shaken baby syndrome (bad babysitter), which kind of made me feel like a freak again. Like the only time a baby dies is because someone kills it. Great message. Way to reinforce mother-blame and pre-existing guilt.

Sorry, I'm still angry today. I'm sorry your plants didn't make it -- makes me feel less alone, too.

sweetsalty kate said...

oh, sweet horsie baby. My heart just broke a little... sigh.

Mrs. Spit said...

Thanks for the shout out! Everything is still covered in snow. With a 30 percent chance of it tomorrow. Can I come and move where you are, if I promise to pick all your weeds?

I'm really good at noxious weeds. The first year we were in this house, there were these pretty plants with oblong leaves and purple flowers, growing along side the fence, and I decided to leave them, they looked pretty.

Dumb move. They are creeping bellflower. The only way to get rid of them is to spray roundup on a cotton ball and wipe every. single. damn. little. tiny. leaf.

I just live with them.

Natalie said...

Oh my gosh, that poor mare. :( So sad. We had a litter of kittens at work this past year that were stillborn. The whole litter. Apparently it wasn't a very pretty thing either. We end up with quite a few pregnant cats who have to get rushed to the hospital for c-sections, lots of kittens who die when they are so small and fragile. Unfortunately it really is part of life. :( We just really wish that kind of stuff didn't happen to us humans. We're supposed to have figured out ways around all of that.

Beruriah said...

I was going to tell you about how me neighbor's hamster ate its young and how we came upon it on the middle of things at 7 years old. Nightmares were had for many nights. But then I felt too sad for that horse.

Tash said...

Beruriah, the hamster thing happened to me too! I just totally forgot all about it -- must be that selective memory x'ing out all the trauma in my life. You know how THAT happens. /snort

MsPrufrock said...

I feel a bit silly for thinking how beautiful I find those photos, given the general tone of this post.

That poor foal. Sigh.

Waiting Amy said...

Mother Nature does no better job with the rest of her creatures. (as a vet I can attest to this) There are all sorts of tragedies.

I too had my 3-year-old plant seeds last year. "Subtle" is a good word. ha. Then I forgot that we were leaving town for a week. Same outcome.

samill said...

I'm a fan of spring, mostly because it's my birthday season. I hear ya with the weeds though. And - magnolia hangover - genius!

Newt said...

Spring also makes me sneeze. I find it downright toxic, all that flower sperm floating around in the air like that. It's obscene.

That poor little horse breaks my heart.

G said...

Oh that poor mare :( Having witnessed a few foal births, it's not an easy thing for a lot of mares (those are some long legs). That makes me sad.

Can you chop up the weeds and put them in a salad?

Aunt Becky said...

Dude, the horse can come live with me and sleep in my bed and I will love it forever and ever and ever. Can I please, please, please have it?

(the rest of your post was incredibly eloquent and made me want to hide my blog because yours is so much...well, better.)

I heart you, Tash.

janis said...

Sigh* I think when I said that thing about inferior, it shd really be about how your writing is just beautiful, and awesome. So I wither in shame. This post made me nod, and, er, laughed. I know, I am sick. need help. Not about the baby foal, nope, but other things. And I like your eye on this matter, of spring and life and death. You rock.

Rachel said...

I really enjoyed reading this post. This spring I have been seeing flowers, but also the underside of change.

Alex said...

Delurking. I'm reluctant to call your blog beautiful, given its subject, but your writing is. Thanks for sharing this (found my way here from Niobe's).

Several years into infertility treatment, I wandered into a park with a pond and ducks, in springtime. I wondered if it would make me sad to see all the little ducklings, but no. Seeing all those tiny vulnerable creatures just made me realize how precarious this life and reproduction thing is, for all of us.

(It doesn't beat the kitten, but perhaps this thought occurred to me when viewing the ducks because some years earlier I was visiting a zoo that had moats that it used to confine its animal inhabitants. Wild mallard ducks had nested near many of the moats, and they and their ducklings were swimming about. One family group chose the moat surrounding the meerkats, and its numbers were quickly reduced, to the vast distress of the mother mallard.)

Amy said...

I like CLC think your weeds are pretty. Of course, we have purple weeds here that I think are pretty and Shan kills them! Of course, let me out there and I'd kill everything green or pretty or ugly for that matter.

I feel bad for the filly, she's alone without her momma. The Momma, that's sad too. Nature bites a big dick in my book, most days!

STE said...

Sorry, I"m back again...

Did you ever see March of the Penguins? I saw it after my second chemical pregnancies.

The images of the penguin parents wailing and grieving their lost eggs, trying to take someone else's...It had me weeping, still makes my chest ache.

Sometimes nature freaking sucks.

Searching said...

Sigh, I had written this long comment and blogger made the word verifications too hard for my measly brain to comprehend and well, it ate my words.

You can imagine that I'm very sad about the dead mare, the dead flowers, the dead plants, and everything else, but most of all sad for the deadbabymomma. Sending you a hug for the weekend since I'll be computerless.

c. said...

The mare story makes me so sad, Tash. Seriously, I'm tearing up here. Could be the beer though.

I've never gravitated to missteps in the past. I preferred to put them out of my mind, to pretend they did not exist. Ignorance is bliss and I can honestly say, I was the village idiot before Nov. 1. Wish I still was, strangely.

Coggy said...

I should add the picture of my dead tomato seedlings which I neglected to water to yours.

I seem to migrate to the bad stuff now. I read the sad stories in the newspaper and I seem to tune in to them on the radio more than ever. I don't want to hear that the world is all sweetness and light. I need to know it's not just me.
Having said that I am really sorry to hear about your neighbors horse.

Antigone said...

"Not that I'll do it again"

So it's decided?