---- Variously attributed to Buddha, Confucius, Zippy the Pinhead, and Buckaroo Banzai
What a day, with a dry and warm offshore wind, the kind to make the nose twitch with anticipation of smoke, but for all that, deliriously beautiful. The yellowing leaves that were lounging on the boughs skitter through the air, practically obliterating the lawn with their number. Best of all, Rita’s home at last from New Mexico, a summer stay that unexpectedly extended into the fall. I’m sitting on her deck. She’s gone inside for the pitcher of lemonade. I missed these opportunities to parse the daily curricula, missed the “whining hour,” but I can’t come right out and say how much.
“Whatever happened to the evils of empire?” I pick up the thread of conversation after she has refilled our glasses, and settled back into the lounge chair. “Now the earthshaking question is whether Laura is doing too many empire waists.”
“What is the point of that show?” she asks.
“It’s Survivor for the fashionistas. Each week the contestants are given a task, like making a dress out of burlap or Kleenex or something, and at the end of each show somebody gets the boot. The grand prize is you get to make your own collection for Fashion Week in New York.”
“Enchanting. How many people come to your house to watch it?”
“Last Wednesday there must have been thirty, mainly in their thirties and forties. I didn’t know half of them. One of the newcomers asked me, ‘Are you a groupie, too?’ I said it was my first time, and he looked at me like I was an Etruscan.”
“Was it your first time?”
“No. Flora has these parties every Wednesday. Every week they get bigger.”
“So I’ll get invited?”
“You hate TV.”
“Why do you always assume I’m a fanatic?”
“Because you are.”
“Nonsense. I have passions. There’s a difference. This show—what’s it called?—sounds creative, at least. I’d consider it a field trip. I can’t figure out what these kids are passionate about. Everything that comes out of Rick’s mouth has a sort of disdainful indifference, unless he’s talking about his iPod. When I invited him to go with me to the march last week, he looked at me like, Geez, we don’t do things like that anymore. He’s right, they don’t. There were kids at the march in their teens and twenties—that’s a good sign, at least, and of course the gray hairs, but very few in the thirties and forties. But if they’re somewhere making dresses out of Kleenex, that explains it. No time.” She stands and stretches, then walks to the Golden Delicious apple tree whose trunk is on my side of the fence but whose branches extend over into her garden, and plucks an apple, one of many thronging the tree. She takes a deliberate bite, testing ripeness.
“Not quite there,” she says, taking another bite. “It’s come to this. We’ve become the very folks we mercilessly mocked, complaining about the younger generation, blah blah blah.”
We both laugh; the whining hour is over.
“Do you want to give me a tour of the new improved garden? It looks pretty, what I’ve seen.”
“Not really. I want to tell you my new scheme. I’m going to plant a wall of bamboo between me and Bertie. I’m sick of looking at his shaggy ivy and his carport. Why didn’t I think of this 20 years ago? The kind I’m planting grows to 20 feet high, fast. They’re going to transform the backyard.”
“Feeling a little competitive, perhaps? Aren’t you worried about them spreading?”
“They’re clumpers, not runners. Eventually I suppose they might get too wide, but I’ll deal with that as I go along.”
The bamboo I’ve ordered is Himalayacalamus falconeri ‘Damarapa’, also called candy-striped bamboo because of culms that are striped with yellow or lavender-pink. They should put some dazzle back into the upper garden.
Rita, as usual, nails it. I am feeling competitive, though taking a different tack. As the front garden gets more exposed and open to the street, I am closing off the back, making it more private and secluded and secret. The impulses and feelings involved are old and familiar, eminently but not easily discardable. Vintage 1953, I’d say. l
For a decade, dispatches from Faro’s garden have appeared seasonally in The Monthly. We are pleased to announce that Ithuriel’s Spear Press has just published them as a collection, entitled In Faro’s Garden, A Tour and Some Detours. The book is available at www.spdbooks.org, Amazon.com and Black Oak Books in Berkeley. R. E. Faro can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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