concentric circles with mazelike interconnections
Sunday, May 27 2007
We left Eleanor back at the house, but Sally and I attended a barbecue at Penny and David's place in Marbletown. Also there were David's mother and father, his brother, sister-in-law, niece, and an older gentleman we's met at David's booksigning in Woodstock. I always end up talking about solar panels at these sort of gatherings, but this time I didn't have to take the time to draw a distinction between photovoltaics and hydronics. I would have liked to talk about my brand new and extremely practical urine disposal system, but it's good not to mix the generations when it comes to broaching subjects having such a potential to startle.
Initially I chatted with David's parents, which was fun, but after eating (yes, both Sally and I had chicken), I puttered around the lawn with Penny, first digging holes in hard gravel for plantings and later fixing one of those outdoor chairs that slides back and forth on iron ball bearings.
I was eager to see Penny's vegetable garden, which she'd been talking about for weeks. She's a graphic designer, so I shouldn't have been surprised to see that it was a work of landscape art. Inside a circular deer fence about fifteen feet in diameter, it's a system low hills in concentric circles with mazelike interconnections, each hill crested by groups of little seedlings of various vegetables. Her approach to gardening is completely different from mine. She'd started with a graphical system and used that to order the functionality of the planting, which had been kept as simple as possible (Penny had added no fertilizer to the sandy soil). For me, visual design hadn't even crossed my mind; following the example of my father's many gardens, mine is a rectangular grid with straight rows, an inelegant boxy panel that uses solar energy to make food. I'd gone immediately to the practical concern of picking a site and getting fertilizer and seeds into the ground.
When I wasn't puttering with Penny, I was mostly avoiding the conversation being driven by the guy who didn't seem to want to get off the subject of selling timber on his property. Before eating I'd had a conversation with David's brother about a huge house he's building on a mountaintop at the end of a steep driveway that had cost him $100,000 to install. Nobody was doing much to advance the notion of treading lightly upon the land and leaving the few bits of nature still extant the hell alone. Sure, it's great that David's brother wants to install solar panels on his dream house, but what does it matter if he'd also need an SUV and a personal snowplow to get there?
While avoiding conversations, most of my interactions were with David's brother's dog Lily, who has a pathological obsession with retrieving his tennis ball toy, although she was the kind of dog that didn't quite grasp the idea of giving the toy up after retrieving it. Sally got upset with Lily for paying so much attention to me and kept charging her aggressively when she jockied for position in anticipation of my pitch. At one point Sally actually extracted a mouthful of fur, and it was good that David's mother hadn't seen this; David's mother has a personality quirk that made her express unjustified anxiety about the many trivial instances of potential danger or misfortune of those around her, particularly her little granddaughter (when, for example, she'd hit her head and begin to wail like all kids that age are given to spontaneously doing). David's mother was born in Poland but raised in England during World War II. She still speaks with an upper-class English accent.
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