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
I've been a bit stuck lately, writing-wise. I don't get much into the muse-myth (sparkly ideas landing unbidden on my shoulder) or the notion of writer's block (bricks—unbidden as well— blamming down to squash the sparkle). I'm pretty much of the school that believes that you just pull up your big-girl underpants and get the work done.
One of the things I do to get in the mood when I'm not in the mood is take a little side-trip through my Drafts folder in search of an idea to kick-start my ambition. The Drafts are little baubles that once caught my eye, but didn't quite make the cut on paper. In theory, what once glittered is still gold, but that doesn't always prove to be the case. This example, for instance, which just last night I hauled up from the muck:
No one knew
where the cat came from,
but there it was in
behind the baptismal font,
ready to strike.
Huh????? I have absolutely no idea where that came from, nor do I now find that passage the least bit interesting, but it does get me thinking about baptismal fonts and black cats:
Which gets me thinking about mosaics and Halloween:
Which gets me thinking about witches and food:
Which gets me thinking about television and good food:
Which gets me thinking about France and French cooking:
Which gets me thinking about Julia Child and that poem about her I've been hungry to write . . .
So what have I been stalling around for?
| |One of my favorite things to do on Sunday morning is read the "Corner Office" feature in the Business section of The New York Times. Every week, a different corporate leader is asked a series of questions relating to her or his management philosophy. The responses are insightful and well-considered, and with rare exception, the executives cite personal work experiences which have informed their points of view.
I'm a better behind-the-scenes person than a leader myself, but having spent 26 years with the postal service under managers ranging from A+ to Abysmal on the effectiveness scale, I've given a lot of thought to what qualities make a good workplace leader. "Corner Office" has offered me some new perspectives. But it also could be that I'm so enthusiastic about the feature because so many of the great ideas I read there reinforce and validate my own opinions about what it takes to be a successful manager.
So, Sunday after Sunday, Owners and Presidents and CEOs sit with me at my dining room table and tell me about how they run their worlds. These are the exceptional parents of their industries, paying keen attention to their employees' needs, listening to their concerns, encouraging openness in the sharing and discussion of ideas. Theirs is a position of command, tempered by reason and fairness and compassion. These are the leaders who will be shaping corporate culture for years to come.
Or it would seem. With all this love drizzling down from the top, are the workers at the bottom of the cake feeling content? A while back, one of my physicians, whose practice consists entirely of women, told me that she routinely asks her patients how their worklives are going. My doctor told me that in the prior 2 1/2 years, only one of her patients had responded favorably to the query. And that was a woman in her early twenties who worked primarily with young children. Of course this was definitely a most unscientific survey. But it had me wondering, so I poked around a bit to see what workers are thinking about their jobs these days. A recent CareerBuilder survey has 67% of transportation and utility workers expressing satisfaction with their jobs. The number drops to 48% for retail employees. If you're a half-full kind a person, perhaps 1-in-2 or 2-in-3 are comely figures. But I'd give my nod to half-emptiness on this one. If a half or even two-thirds of workers are content, that still leaves a large percentage of employees feeling out on the edge.
I'm not naïve. The jewel of happiness contains many facets, and I'm not here to discuss all the cuts and bevels. But I'm thinking of these leaders whose words I've read, their top hats a-sparkle with good ideas. If those ideas were implemented from top to bottom, I believe they'd go a long way toward increasing employee satisfaction. There appears to be a gap between upper management's ideals and how those ideals translate to the workers in the field. So where's the disconnect? A clue comes to me from my mother, her ghost-words tagging after me all these years. I always thought the buck stopped with her, but perhaps she was merely a middle-manager herself, forever negotiating the distance between the realities of the larger world and the imperatives of bringing up children within it. I can still hear her voice today: Don't do as I do, just do as I say.