Part 1: A Woman of a certain age
by Daria Halprin
Let the ground lie fallow
Farmers do it, they know they must tend to the land by letting her rest, recover,
Even look barren and useless at times
So that she can regenerate, find her way back, become again
That hallowed and holy fertile ground.
So that she can tolerate their footsteps, their rakes and hoes and shovels, their columbines
So that she can take them on her back and under her skin again.
Every other year or three or more or less, or if the season is too damn hot or they’ve been flooded or frosted or bugs bitten through with eager aggressive and unrepentant insistence, a fallow time is needed.
Here is the row of corn I planted, against advice and with warning – here they are all neatly standing upright in their row, like young fellows shirtless in the summer sun with their lovely hairless chests and rippling muscles in the breeze,
And here are the lovely tall stalked sunflowers like bursting runway beauties ready to walk on their sexy stiletto heals right into those cornstalk arms!
Pungent herbs shaded at the youngsters feet. The elders watching with a quiet reserve, their eyes glistening in remembrance. Sage and peppermint, lavender, and thyme, all miss that blatant sensuality, instead they wait patiently to be simmered and stewed into things
The green tomatoes taking up everyone’s space because they can and do and are the great CEO’s making the most outa this garden, and the cucumbers who slide along the edges and spill over and hide under and behind, waiting in secrecy to be found out, or get away with it..
I have prepared this soil and chosen carefully for planting. I have bent over and felt the rebellion in my joints, the heat of the summer and hot flashes, not always knowing which heat was which, and still surprised by it all.
I have wondered, did I do it right, planted close enough, or far enough, or deep enough, or too deep, is there enough light or shade for each ones’ growth? Did I read the directions well enough, should I have studied more, waited long enough or too long, did I choose the right things?
He calls out from above: like this, no not that way, oh you’ll ruin it, I told you that, watch out, take it easy, closer, farther, yes, no, not that way -
While I seethe inside, I’d like to yell up at him: It’s between us women now!
This mother earth and I, we have born you and fed you and fretted after you, we have staked you up and sprinkled you with whatever we hoped might heal you, fertilized you so that you might flourish, done whatever we could to help you become your full self.
Do they have the room or sun or shade the just right soil they need to grow in? How I worry after them, so that perhaps they feel smothered and nagged by my attention. I think of them when I’m asleep and open my eyes on some mornings thinking and hoping, will today be a harvest, a ripening, a happiness.
Last evening in the moonlight I could see in my visit that they were almost ready, after all the patient visiting and hoping. In the morning I came with my basket to the garden to pluck the young corn lads, I found them covered in bugs, their shirt sleeves torn and their skin chewed away, yet without whimpering they stood there and took it.
The peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers too, gnawed by the gophers and the crows.
I missed it, after all the careful preparations, the constant and vigilante tending, the loving and the worrying. I missed the harvest, rug pulled out from under me. All the years of trying and saving up for and dreams hidden in journals or under panties at the back of the lingerie drawer, none of my cautious fears or good behavior prevented it from happening.
I try to soothe myself with words like:
It isn’t all gone
Look what’s left and how much you have to be grateful for
Think of all those starving
There is always more planting can be done
But I’m tired, and his directions did nothing to protect against this.
I’m tired and I want to go home
Into the dark brown
I want to dig in and bury myself under
I want to be left fallow
Please dearest farmer who I have loved and given to for so long, don’t touch me now and for a while.
Leave me to feel my barrenness, let me compost until I disappear and become utterly useless
I need to face it, to enter into that dark silence
I need to know that I will be saved
By hands other than yours.