Turn me into compost, Baby!
Not a huge revelation, but since admitting this to a friend last week, I've a had the opportunity to reflect on just how slothful I've really become.
Let's talk about composting, f'rinstance. I live in a region that is very conscious of—conscientious about—its stewardship of our natural resources. This isn't just noise at a governmental level; it's a cultural value that extends to the everyday of households. Homeowners are installing solar panels to capture heat; we swap out our incandescent light bulbs for the fluorescent variety; our waste is sorted before we put it out at the curb—a container for recyclable materials, one for yard debris, another for the landfill. The system works. My large barrel of recycled materials is emptied every two weeks, but my smaller-by-half landfill container is only picked up once a month. Even then, only rarely is it filled to capacity.
Five years ago I moved from a neighborhood house with a decent-sized yard to a lower-maintenance house with a yard so small I can't even call it a yard without choking on my own hyperbole. There's a strip of grass up front and a patch in back which is planted up with lackluster shrubs that I only have to tend to twice a year. It's a lazy girl's dream, allowing me to idle on the interior side of the windowglass with my cup of hot tea and not-much-to-do when the mowers and rakes and shovels and hoes begin their spring flights off the hardware-store shelves.
And so I now confess that my do-the-right-thing genes have been hunkering down indoors as well. For five this-house years, I've been tossing my vegetable scraps blithely in the trash can under the sink. Every slime-gray potato peel, each boomerang of watermelon rind, all the inedible rowboats of celery—the whole biodegradable shebang has been going right into the can that's emptied into the barrel that rides in the truck where it's dumped into a hole and compacted to a loaf that will last longer into the eons than that proverbial holiday fruitcake and all those other unkillable clichés.
Recycling kitchen waste is not an activity alien to me. I kept a compost bin at my last house. I'd made it myself with cedar boards measured and cut and configured in such a way so that the contents would breath. I filled it with kitchen waste and grass clippings and the autumn trees' dropped leaves. I didn't even begrudge the dogs their scrubbings when, after a wet mowing, they'd bound their way into the open bin, making chlorophylly green leprechauns of themselves. I watered the heap and fed it and turned it. I laced the black harvest back into the soil in the yard.
In my current life I've donated uncounted cat litter buckets to friends who've employed them for their own composting needs. When asked, I wrote a poem lauding the another neighborhood's composting efforts. And with each small gesture I've carved a notch in the expanding waistline of my own inertia.
Fiction writers talk about "consistent inconsistencies," those at-odds-with-themselves traits that legitimize a character's humanity on the page. I've tried to run this scam on myself, explaining that my failure to compost is one of those exceptions that proves the rule of my humanness. But a scam is a scam, and after a while, even I get tired of sniffing out the ones I'm selling to myself.
So last week I bought a compost bin. A recycled plastic one that took, if I puff the numbers, approximately 5 entire minutes to assemble. I installed it in the back patch, behind a threesome of pampas grass that, guaranteed come fall, I'll again be whining about having to cut back. And I'll admit I'm feeling a little proud of myself—for finally coming to do that which I know I should have been doing all along.
Oh, I'm not delusional. I'll be annoyed in short order, grumbling about how quickly my kitchen container seems to fill up, about the long walk down the stairs to empty it out. A clearer conscious does not shake off the lazy blues. But a life is about choices, I think, about trying to make the better ones—one slippery banana peel at a time.
(with thanks to my confessor, Q)
The author, with Kobi, self-composting
Oh boy—spring—and the tube feeder outside my office window is already seeing some heavy action.
My neighborhood is fairly new, and as the trees and shrubs have grown ever fuller, so has the checklist of birds who've begun to find the environment hospitable. The house finches are now at it all year long. Last season the occasional junco flitted by. At some point during the summer, goldfinches discovered the easy cache and could be relied upon to empty the tube in less than a day. This delighted me personally, but I have to say that my pocketbook was somewhat dismayed by the expense of the refilling.
I like to think I have an ecumenical view on who is welcome to come and dine. And up to this point, with so little feathered wildlife to enjoy, it's been easy to be full-hearted and open-minded about the visitors. Even the occasional squirrels, orange-bellied and upside-down as they master the feeder designed, supposedly, to keep them out, have been enjoyed without the arm-waving and glass-banging my savvier friends advise.
Thanks to my friend Lynn, a suet cage now hangs near the feeder. An as-yet-unidentified variety of warbler has arrived to feast on the fatty cake, but the expected bushtits have yet to descend in their sweet frenetic clusters. I sit daily at my desk and type, one eye toward the window for any new movement outside the glass.
This morning brought a new addition—a starling. Well, it began with one starling. And then there were two, then four, then eight. In geometric progression their numbers increased until there were more starlings than tree, almost more starlings than sky. The fledglings in their speckly suits attacked the suet like coupon queens on sale day.
I didn't wave or bang. Nor did I dash outside to scold them away like kids in an alley who are up to no good. Even as I watched, disheartened, as whole chunks of suet plopped to the ground uneaten. It somehow didn't seem right to have put out the welcome mat only to greet the guests with a Members Only sign.
As it turned out, the starlings didn't remain for long. Denial always a favored position, I am choosing to believe that it was a momentary fling, their gorging. Who with new wings wouldn't be seduced by every single thing flight delivered them to? But it does give me pause to think about my so-called ecumenical stance. I may open my arms, but how to resolve who's allowed to land there?
Now through misty eyes
Now through squinty eyes
Now I's adjusting to later
Lucky me. A house with a crackerjack view.
A bonus, it turned out.
Five years ago, I moved into what I called an "evolving neighborhood," which essentially meant that I expected, for a chunk of my immediate future, to awaken to the sounds of backhoes and concrete trucks, hammer strikes and power nailers.
Then arrived that teetery economy you might have heard something about. And my imagined intimacies with heavy equipment thudded to a halt, my evolving neighborhood one big goose egg that never hatched.
But more than pollination was going on in the weedy vacancies: incubation, apparently, as last fall there began a rumble. Followed by a convoy of dump trucks. Then flatbeds loaded with lumber and trusses. Soon, houses began to erupt from the intermittent gaps on my side of the street. Houses which have subsequently begun erupting with people, neighborly people.
So, no real surprise last month when I noticed surveyor's markers in the empty field across the street. And this morning, on my computer screen, detailed development plans provided by the city. But wouldn't you just know it: in these intervening years I've grown mighty fond of that view of no houses beyond my front windows: the meadow and its shifting colors; the scurry and freeze of killdeer; clouds chugging across the sky, the hawks floating and diving; the black locomotive of weather powering in from the west. If I squint and look to the north and west, I can see the ant line of traffic coming into town on Coburg Road. And there's the county land behind, where backyard burning is seasonally allowed, from which the acrid smoke rises in tiny columns before dissipating into the wind. Not to mention all the poems which have come to me from that field, merely by the act of my looking out into it.
Despite all the obvious signs of change, it was just this past weekend that I realized this would be the final summer I'd have this view, this bonus of the past five years. I'm stoic, reminding myself of the evolving neighborhood of my original euphemism. Certainly there will be new vistas to enjoy: the growth of the houses (which I actually find a compelling process), the arrival of newcomers, finches and jays in the street trees, the night views with others' windows lit up, lives revealed from the inside out. To my future neighbors who will inherit their own transient moment with my view, I hope that it fills you as much as it has me.
And now to haul a lawn chair to the third floor bathroom. If I arrange it "just so" on the platform of the tub, I'll be able to watch the colors on the Coburg hills ebb and flow in the evening light.
Thanks to Cousin Lori for the sampler!
An unexpected repair to my house has me feeling grumpy. Okay, more than grumpy. Exponentially grumpy. So grumpy that I've been feeling that I don't love my house anymore. My house has betrayed me. My house makes me think I'll never trust it again. The house is a bad marriage, and I want out.
That was yesterday. Today the sun is up, the sky is blue and even though I haven't yet planted the red geraniums in the pot on the porch, it's looking like a red-geranium day. Tra la la la la la la. Pollyanna has come home at last!I'll admit to being a bit of an optimist. Or a hopeful-ist (though some would say delusionist.) And I've never been one to blame a messenger. So I got to thinking about all the things I love about my house. Things which, despite my momentary despair, were all still true when the sun blared up over the hilltops this morning--
THINGS I LOVE ABOUT MY HOUSE:
LOTS OF LIGHT AND SHADOWS TALL ENOUGH FOR A GIRAFFE COOL RAILINGS
-SHAPED SPOT ON TILE ROOM FOR ALL MY JUNK WEIRDLY REFLECTIVE DOORBELL
But what I love best about my house is that
KOBI LOVES IT, TOO!
And if you feel as if you need a little Pollyanna in your life today, check out these videos: