Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Walking in the other man's shoes

I do not need to grow my own food to eat well. But if you try, you learn something. (And you can eat better!) After hours struggling with clay dirt, and intermittent heavy rain, trying to hold back weeds in favor of the squash, melon, corn, and tomatoes that we favor, snatching lunch and keeping working, so much becomes a whole lot clearer. I find myself sympathizing more than ever with the poor whites photographed during the dust bowl, and depression - gaunt, tired, anxious, and unkempt, often standing outside their wooden shacks, like like Steinbeck's Tom Joad whose family (in Grapes of Wrath) had to leave their farm and travel across country to find work. I made a whole series of choices - how deep to plant, whether or not to wait until the soil was drier etc etc. If I was wrong, I would have wasted some time, but I would not starve. But imagine depending on your crops actually succeeding. There is something to Hegel's sense that the slave has something over the master, perhaps an unmediated relation to nature. But if I were working for someone else, revolution would only be held at bay by fatigue. As things stand, while my capacity to walk a little bit in the other guy's shoes has been enhanced, I know I am cheating the real. But I am getting a REAL work-out, up and down, lifting, hauling, digging etc. so unlike the meaningless muscle exercises in the gym. And I am seeding the chance of some incredible, rare, not-in-the stores heritage vegetables for later in the summer. But WHO am I when I make this garden? I thought of Tom Joad, but only when the dirt was getting under my nails. Mostly I thought of my mother and her plant stand, and above all her father, Frank, who was a market gardener, and who grew the best tomatoes. Interestingly however, he was not a romantic. He grew Moneymaker because they were a reliable cropper. Whereas I am growing yellow, beefsteak, Kellog's Breakfast, and many many more varieties I have never heard of. For the taste and the look.