Water and Black Roses
[Cross-posted at La Vida Locavore.]
Four years ago in August we had a typical California heat wave, high-nineties and dry, with a few neighborhoods knocked off the power grid from peak demand. I was driving down Los Gatos Blvd and at Union there was a cop directing traffic because of dead lights, standing on roiling, baking black asphalt, breathing exhaust fumes in a navy blue uniform’n hat as he did traffic calisthenics.
I scooted into Safeway and bought a pint of cold water at the quick-check and stood at the crosswalk. “Just wait!” he yelled loudly and sternly, dealing with another traffic variable in the reeking machine noise. He eventually motioned me on, looking at me non-pulsed as I walked right up to him, silently holding out a bottle of water.
“Dude!” he said with as much delight as I ever seen in a human, he was so instantly boyishly transformed, with this amazing flaming red hair. He grabbed that bottle and chugged half it back; I remember looking at waiting drivers who weren’t smiling about it, here was another traffic wait, and then I wordlessly jogged away. Making a right to drive away he was still there, pensively motioning traffic with a half-empty bottle.
One of my people talked to his people, they talked among themselves, and out of nowhere Phase 1 of the potato palace has a real crew of labor and skilled carpenters to restore the original flower boxes. I’m thrilled, of course, but very humbled, too, and fundamentally puzzled: why are these men being so kind to me, a total stranger?
I have been kind in this life, yes, but also horribly ruthless. I have tried to do well much of the time, but often foolishly failed. Without ever trying I was given many automatic advantages, many of which I’ve squandered to some degree, but not all. There are no karma accounts, no ethereal ledgers of goodness that show a balance due in this world, and I don’t deserve special attention. At the end of it all of course I will happily labor with them, eternally very grateful and profoundly sure that whenever possible, no matter how small the act, that kindness is such a special human element in our world, it can be so very powerful.
Crew and carpenters mean shapes for the flower boxes, oy, how pretty and unique the flower beds for the potato palace will be. Instead of plain rectangles we get a star, a sun, an octagon, a pentagon and a plain off-shape, boxes of wood holding dirt, true, but those shapes filled with blooms will transform my little potato palace, I can’t wait to see it. We meet next week for the first look and drawings, we’ll be done by the end of March. Phase II I can build myself, 12 Teutonic rectangle boxes won’t be hard, I need the efficiency for the food bank.
Yesterday afternoon I thought of Mae West—too much of a good thing can be wonderful—and almost furtively bought 4 Black Rose canes I found at Home Depot with 2 cubic feet of chicken manure. The rose garden really doesn’t need them but I couldn’t help it, Black Roses are a very dark red, mysterious bloom of awesome fragrance and power I planted happily anyway, perhaps it’s vanity or over-doing but I don’t care, I want them.
Then a bitch of a job weeding a huge gladiola border garden with the short hoe, I really couldn’t hack the bulbs out but it was a mess, I took some casualties on the bulbs, dern it, but it had to be done, finished off with a yard of freshly mixed soil and manure. January gardening is absolutely necessary but all the sweat in the cold with nothing growing isn’t my favorite time of the year.
Finally I turned on a PVC tap of clear, cold abundant California water, 12 gallons a minute with this excellent pressure, looks like, and wantonly soaked the roses and bulbs with hundreds of gallons of California Water Empire moisture.
Jerry Moonbeam Brown’s Dad built the greatest water delivery system in the world—California’s--in the 1950’s, an investment that still pays off a thousand times every year for one of the greatest Republics in the world. I will do my duty with timed drip systems for the potato palace, of course, but with the millions of acre feet the rice growers will be using in Chico this summer I didn’t feel bad about a few hundred gallons.
My priest always comes out and chats with me as I toil away, personal and probing, but I put up with it and honestly answer. She is an amazing person of humbling grace, and whatever gifts she may have her kindness is manifestly shining above all others, and again, I’m puzzled why it gets directed at me. It was cold but a beautifully clear evening, thinking about kindness, water and black roses as I hacked away at the weeds.