Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Wild Order

This morning doves--not pigeons--were on the ground in the backyard. Before I let Dixie out, our female cardinal was on the patioway between the kitchen French doors and the covered portico.

In the front, the prosaically named bottle brush plant [also far less pleasantly known as donkey spurge (don't think)] is blooming a brilliant brick red, if you can imagine that. Mint nearly a foot high is thickly carpeting the southwest corner of the yard, and while the pansies still bloom under the fruitless pear tree, petunias and impatiens are in full go as well. The bizarre-looking orange "blooms" of the kangaroo paw are up in profusion; the ajuga's purple stalks are finished, but sedum is blazing with tiny yellow and white flowers, and the dwarf rose is pink atop the center rock garden. The Shumard oaks out in the parkway are each adding 12-18" to each branch, and the easternmost Eve's lace, up by the southeastern corner of the house, is surging out over the roof and headed for high over neighbor Jo's driveway. She'll trim them at the property line. The yaupon hollies look raggedy, but are doing well. The first burst from my foxgloves is about done, but they are sending up subsidiary stalks, which I didn't know they did.

As Wendell Berry points out again and again, caring for what is entrusted to you for as long as it is entrusted to you is essential for responsible "earth-keeping." And while we have not meant to, we have been at the BabySwiss longer than any other residence in our lives. The staying with it is beginning to show, because Dawn insists on cooperating with nature. You can see this, in the healthier trees, the gradual encroachment on grass of the flower garden and rock garden plots, the slow accumulation of don't-have-to-buy-them-again perennials, the juxtapositions of plant and stone textures as the diversity of plants (and stones) grows.

This is ironic to me, because this house feels less ours than any ever has. I don't think we've ever bought the "if we're renting it's not ours, but if we're buying then it's ours" thing. That hasn't ever made any sense to me.

You are where you are, for some temporary time, longer or shorter. You are responsible for what you have an opportunity to effect. What a particular economy happens to call ownership or leasehold or whatever is arbitrary and incidental to your God-given role as human-among-earth-things, and your social-historical identity as citizen-in-a-culture-which-outlasts-you. So caring for the built and natural environment is what you're about, and you just manage the particularities of that as they are created and constrained by things like laws and attitudes at any given time.

We've always felt that what we rented belonged to us. And we have a strong sense that what we own now is a temporary trust. Realtors and homeowners' association advocates do not easily resonate with us, I suspect...

The house on Broad was ours, though a piece of paper said we were renting it for $250/month. Within a few months of getting married, we had an informally-placed foster kid and several college friends living with us. The Rice apartment (not called that because that was all we could afford to eat, although it could have been) was ours. It was our main seminary residence, and where we were when Dawn finished her African studies degree, and where we first got used to living around people we didn't know ("who's that?" "the woman from the couple across the stairwell" "how is she?" "she looks like a new egg" "what do you mean?" "freshly laid." Ah, apartments.)

The house on Belvar, all 750 square feet of it, was very much ours; it was where we were when the kids were born, when I finished seminary, from which we went to Zambia. The house in Zambia was a prize: no heat or air, but 1800 square feet, bars and iron gates, an acre of land, and Africa. Then there was the house we shared with the Roaches on Vickery (now a McMansion), where the kids were for the amazing Stonewall elementary experience and Cub Scouts, and where Lower Greenville began. Then our real house, the Richmond house, the giant American foursquare friend Connie and we got to house the growing church. Right across the street from the Food Hole, right off Lower Greenville. It was ours. But those who think law and economics are real said otherwise, and so it was that we had to go, this time to the BabySwiss, which has been a good house for high school, an okay place for LGBC for a while, a great place to write a dissertation (thanks to Dawn and the kids for the shed, to Dawn and friend Kristen for the uninterrupted time, and to Dixie, for safety in isolation), and a great place for housemates and Dawn's mom.

The orange daisy-like flowers at the foot of the steps are playing out, but the coneflower is rising, and the alyssum we've never been able to grow is starting to spread over the rocks and choke out the grass. By inches, order and wild work toward beauty.


Blogger holmsey said...

I like it. I'm always battling with the rootless feeling of moving so often and the suspicion that staying in one place does not equal rootedness. I sometimes rampage against the illusion of "home" perhaps because I don't have one and think those with houses get too attached to them. We're all journeying to heaven anyway, so don't get too comfortable. Then I read Berry and wanted to stay put forever and grow a garden. Dang.

8:01 PM  

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