About Me

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Born in the US, raised on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus, lived in Italy, the US, and Canada. Lover of language, travel, colour, and the natural world.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Friday thoughts on garden tape, quitting, and taking the next step

It is another scorching hot day here in northern California. Yesterday I was out on the farm I volunteer on preparing beds, planting sunflowers and corn, and harvesting volunteer potatoes. It was a hot day, and by mid-afternoon I was more than ready to head home with my box of freshly harvested vegetables and a bouquet of colourful flowers. Our garden looks gorgeous. Like something out of a storybook. I say our garden because I started volunteering in March, so I was there to help prepare some of the beds, and to plant many of the seeds and seedlings. I was there when it was endless beds of soil with tiny trails of green shoots pushing up out of the ground. To see it now it is incredible that it ever looked so bare. The sunflowers tower above me, their bright, butter yellow rays sharp against the clear blue sky. The corn is standing tall and thick. The deep green watermelons are swelling beneath a low canopy of lush, creeping vines. Bright purple, deep rose, burning orange, pale pink, white, pale creamy yellow, mottled pink and cream, and peach blossoms grow so thick and tall that it is impossible to cut through the beds. Purple and green basil blossom, their pungent aroma strong in the afternoon sun. Cucumber vines grow thick along another bed, dark green and bright yellow cucumbers studding the soil beneath them. The tomato plants climb their trellis, a profusion of bright red fruit hanging in clusters. Purple cabbages look like giant roses growing along the soil. Marbled green zucchini and bumpy-skinned bright yellow squash hide in the shade of big, prickly leaves. The red central stalk of rainbow chard is highlighted by sunlight. The sound of happy, well-fed bees is loud throughout the garden. As I kneel down in a row, pulling nests of potatoes tumbling out of the earth, a tiny frog leaps away under the protection of the bell pepper plants. Our garden is magic. And it is gorgeous.

It was also parched yesterday. In need of a deep, long drink of water. So the fellow who manages the garden turned on the water before taking off, leaving me to harvest in the afternoon heat. Just as I finished harvesting, and was about to head home for a nice cool drink, I heard a miniature pop, and looked up to see water gushing out of a hole in one of the drip tapes that carries water along each bed to the plants. A couple of seconds later I heard three more miniature explosions, and the pathways were turning into paddle pools, none of the water reaching the parched plants. I was hot and tired, and ready to go home, but I could not get Guy (the fellow in charge of the garden) on the phone, so I realized I was going to have to fix the irrigation system myself. I have never fixed drip tape before, so I went in search of one of the farm interns to ask for a tutorial. She kindly came over and showed me how to turn off the water on each row, cut the tape on either side of the damage, and then re-connect the intact tape using a coupler. It took a while, but I managed to get the other three fixed on my own. Watching the water reach all the plants in the rows when I was done was deeply satisfying, as was knowing that despite being overheated and tired, I had stayed on and learned a new skill that I know I will be able to use again and again.

Last night a friend of mine who is in the middle of medical school, and was here for the last year doing an internship at U.C. Davis Medical Centre was packing up his house, and myself and a number of other people headed over to help him pack. We packed most of the night, and when we left most of his apartment was in boxes, ready to be loaded into the U-Haul trailer that he will be driving across the country to his new home in South Carolina. While I was sorting through paperwork and packing up books, I came across a piece of paper with a poem on it that caught my eye -- not because it is incredibly good writing, but because I liked the sentiment it was expressing. The poem's title was blunt:

Don't Quit

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you're trudging seems all uphill,
When the funds are low, and the debts are high,
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,
When care is pressing you down a bit,
Rest if you must, but don't you quit.

 Life is queer with its twists and turns,
As everyone of us sometimes learns,
And many a failure turns about,
When he might have won he stuck it out;
Don't give up though the pace seems slow,
You may succeed with another blow.

Success is failure turned inside out,
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems so far,
So stick to the fight when you're hardest hit,
It's when things seem worse, that you must not quit.

I have no idea who wrote this poem -- there was no name on it, but I copied it down in my journal anyway. It is interesting to me how often when I am ready to throw in the towel and give up on something, but I keep pushing forward, saying "just keep going--take one more step forward," that in these moments I usually learn something new. The garden experience yesterday was just one such experience. I have been trying to do research for the novel that I am writing, and having very little success. But despite the seeming lack of progress, I keep trying to make contacts, sending out at least one or two emails a week. A couple of weeks ago I had an email response from the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., saying that they had a list of potential interview candidates that I could contact through them, filling out a form for each one, and sending it to the museum so that they could in turn forward it to the individual person, out of respect for their privacy. When I first got this response I was excited. Then I was slightly discouraged. I mean how many of these people are actually going to respond to my letters, I thought? And if they do respond, how am I ever going to be able to afford to travel to wherever they live to interview them? I sent out my first letter anyway. A week passed with no response. Then, this Wednesday evening, the phone rang. When I answered it, a foreign-sounding voice said: "are you Greek or Turk?" I was taken totally off-guard, and wondered who this person was. It turned out that it was Agnes. The first person on my list. She was calling to say that she would love to be interviewed, and that if I come to her home, on the east coast, she would put me up for a few days while she shared her story with me. I cannot tell you how excited I am about her response, and about the prospect of getting to interview her in person. My big challenge now is how to fund a trip to the east coast to interview her. This morning I called the Jewish Museum in San Francisco to ask if they had any suggestions for grants that might help fund my research. The woman that I spoke with told me they did not have anything that could help me there, and was generally not terribly friendly. I hung up the phone feeling downcast again -- and then realized that this was yet another one of those opportunities when I needed to take another step forward, even when it seemed that I was not making any progress. I know that eventually I will find the right person or organization, and that I will make it to the east coast to interview Agnes. It is just a matter of continuing to take those steps forward even when I am not sure where I am headed.

Have you had an experience lately where you felt like giving up, but took one more step forward, even if you could not see how that tiny extra effort when you were already at the end of your tether, could possibly make a difference? Did you learn something new?

1 comment:

  1. Right on Ariana, you rock!!!

    I was ready to throw in the towel on the "illumninated journal workshop" a friend and I had planned for next weekend. I hadn't done any postering and she had been busy. But she came over yesterday and was so excited about it that I am "in the game" again. Posters are now up in town and I am about to send an email to my friends and community.

    So I will be hosting my first creative workshop at my new studio, next Saturday afternoon. Hurray for not quitting.

    And I can't wait to hear all about your conversation with Agnes. I've no doubt you will find a way to get there.

    With love,