Nobody gives you credit unless you win the World Series.
I spent weeks listening to the Mariner games from a hole in the ground,
sifting stones from our garden so that we could grow zucchini. I
made a little pile of dirt on the patio chair, then shook it so that all
but the rocks fell through. In this way I created holes, piles of
unsifted dirt and piles of stones. Once you factor in the space
I needed to stand, there wasn't much garden left. Thus I demonstrated
to our new neighbors that I was a crazy man obsessed with digging holes.
"What are you burying down there?" asked a neighbor from
a kitchen window above. He laughed nervously, "heh heh."
I looked down at our zucchini plant. It was clearly unhappy.
All summer its flowers bloomed, then shriveled up without being pollinated
as if consumed by some horrible disease. I'd followed the advice
of every magazine sidebar, fed it everything from compost mulches to crumbled
eggshells, but the otherwise healthy plant continued to shoot blanks.
"I'm trying to improve the soil," I explained, in the most non-psychotic
voice I could summon.
On this particular day, Emily was in back painting the bedroom walls sage
green, a tribute to the apartment we'd lived in the last couple of years.
The rest of the place we'd painted pale butter yellow and mars red.
You can hide a lot in a red - I was happy with the color because
it was orange, Emily because it wasn't. "Everybody looks eccentric
from the neighbor's window," I complained, looking back at the mud
I'd tracked through the new condo. "Babe, not just from the
neighbor's window," said Emily. She was right. We also
looked eccentric in the parking lot, perpetually unloading furniture from
our convertible, one trip at a time.
After washing the paint brushes and removing the latest carpet spots,
we opened a bottle of wine and sat on the living room floor. The
Mariners were winning, or maybe they were losing, and the announcer Dave
Niehaus was reaching into his subconscious for metaphors so ripe they
were falling off the tree. "You could string a whole week's worth
of laundry on that one!" he spat as Bret Boone knocked one into the
bleachers. There were times when we became intoxicated with a vision
of the Mariners clambering all the way to the World Series, two out of
three games at a time.
But usually, when the evening's work was done, we lay on the carpet and
just enjoyed listening to Niehaus. Sometimes we looked at our list
of things to do and felt it would never end - it was growing as we watched,
like they say you can see the plants growing in Hawaii. We seemed
engaged in an endless task, the completion of which hid just out of sight.
"Do you think the neighbors will realize I'm normal when the
garden is filled with flowers next summer?" Emily rolled her eyes.
Part of us longed for a finished product to justify our labors.
Until I produced a garden full of luxurious flowers, until we had the
place painted and refloored, the neighbors would always see us as busybodies,
moving like ants to no effect. But when the baseball game was on,
the endlessness of the summer's tasks felt like a blessing and not a burden.
Ichiro's stolen bases were climbing, but it wasn't the number that
was exciting. Neither was it the idea of the perfectly finished
home. It was the state of working towards it and of lying on our
backs enjoying the smell of fresh paint.
Happy Holidays 2001
Love, Joshua and Emily