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Planting Season

April 5, 2009

Once, I rented a second-storey flat from a couple who brought to mind Jack Sprat who ate no fat and his wife who ate no lean. Somehow, they cohabited just fine–I suspect, by avoiding each other, which seemed sad.

The husband was roly-poly, sloppy and odd. He blasted techno music on a strict noon till 11 p.m. schedule, and wore a blue hockey jersey year-round, which hung from his shoulders like a nylon sack draping a potato. The wife, she was articulate, tidy and small. She walked on quiet footsteps and slipped my mail under my door.

He lolled indoors, maintaining a doughy palor into late summer. Now and then, he sat on the porch and aimed a hose at the dusty sidewalk. Mostly, he watched TV and languished in the air conditioned parlour. Come August, he was still as hunched and sour as a bear breaking hibernation.

She tended a dainty garden that met the front curb as a sloping patch of flowers and miniature fruit trees, giving way to hardier plants close to the house and winding around to a backyard vegetable patch. Every night of the growing season, she crouched in the soil to gently pull weeds, primp leaves, harvest purple carrots and red beans, shake pollen from cherry blossoms and mist the ferns. She was the most relaxed person I had ever met, despite the techno, despite the husband who frankly deserved a kick in the pants.


Now, I live in a homier place. It, too, is a second-floor bachelor, not exactly cramped but modest enough I call it my doll-house, my cubby, my home the size of a breadbox. It’s well-situated, sunny all day and dead-quiet all night, but its outstanding feature, the thing that made me move in and makes me determined to stay? A private balcony overlooking a forested yard.

My landlord says this used to be the house girl’s quarters, converted ten years ago to a rental flat. They bricked up the flight of stairs that once descended to the kitchen, and adapted the one running to the laundry room to create a private entrance. But, there was a complication–they closed the staircase first and took care of the plumbing second, stranding the old clawfoot bathtub too chubby to fit down the narrow steps. And so, my balcony boasts a rusty green tub, planted with roses, peonies, tall grass and short daisies.

This year, I could use a bit of the plant-based relaxation enjoyed by my former landlady, and think I might sow some complicated things. Weird vegetables, fussy blooms, things that creep and sprawl. It’s too early to trust the frost, but today I wore only one sweater beneath my jacket, and surely the warm weather can’t be far off…

8 Comments leave one →
  1. looka permalink
    April 6, 2009 7:30 am

    Living in the city, I miss that feeling of having a bit of the things around that don’t change and are reliably comfortable.

    Like someone doing their gardening, or the quasi annoying sound of lawnmowers from somewhere far. You know that it’s that neightbor or this person doing their thing at the same time as they always do it, while you stand on the balcony or sit on the stairs.

    Right now I only recognize that people are moving out and in like crazy in our house, no one nice or good sounding. No one with a good rythm to their daily doings. Outside on the streets, it’s city things. The only consistent sound, the one of new construction sites.

    BUT the sun is here!

  2. Amanda permalink
    April 6, 2009 9:24 am

    So true–when you live in the midst of it, the lawn mowers and the guy hammering something (for hours and hours and hours–what could he possibly be hammering for so long?!), or using an electric saw…it seems to happen at exactly the hour when you’re trying to sleep in, take a nap, enjoy a book in the shade…but, all those noises are comfortable, in a funny sort of way.

  3. Carrie permalink
    April 7, 2009 2:24 pm

    I’ve found more rhythms in the city than elsewhere, especially in NYC. Is it because everyone here has OCD? Possibly.

    I also love those aural patterns and watching the folks take their daily walks. I seek those things out.

    In the suburbs, I’m just waiting to be ax murdered during a home invasion or molested by someone’s dad.

  4. looka permalink
    April 7, 2009 3:10 pm

    Yeah, that’s the difference between NY and Vienna! When F was over, his friend said that there’s no one on the streets taking a walk or buzzing up – in comparison to what you said about New York. It was giving her a real spooky feeling, reminding her of a dangerous part of town.

    It’s really weird, there is (almost) nothing going on from nine at night. It looks like the wastelands. Even at daytime, it can look deserted everywhere. Except for the center, where you have some shops and cafés.

    I liked that variety about NY too, especially in Brooklyn and the more interesting parts of Manhatten.

  5. Amanda permalink
    April 7, 2009 3:25 pm

    …despite all that, I definitely want to come to Vienna someday…and, too bad you and Ms. Eva won’t be in NYC when I am this summer!

  6. looka permalink
    April 8, 2009 8:25 am

    YEAH! You know …we know some good spots to survive and enjoy!

  7. Becca permalink
    April 10, 2009 4:02 pm

    You should definitely plant some veggies! How great is a beautiful garden that also feeds you? I’ve been a gardening fiend this year. My favorite so far is my little strawberry plant in a hanging basket I installed on the fence in my back patio. I can’t wait to see those beautiful white flowers turn into strawberries! Trust me, it becomes an obsession. If I lived closer, I’d help you plant it. I’ve already planted three of my friends’ gardens this year as well (yes, I have no life).

  8. Amanda permalink
    April 10, 2009 5:07 pm

    Last year I had a tiny wee strawberry patch and am definitely making one again this year!

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