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Sunday, October 20, 2013

Cultivate your garden. By John von Daler

               The alarm clock rang stridently at five in the morning. Peeking out the window I could see the sun was up and a robin already stood listening for his breakfast on the front lawn, his head cocked, his eyes round and dark as sin, his belly as orange as an Irish protestant. He looked at me as I peered at him from under the window curtain. Then he took a quick hop or two towards me and fell into his listening stance again.

                I hurried out of my pyjamas and put on my jeans. Mom and I were going to work in the robin's front garden. Beds needed to be raked, weeded and watered. It would be cool enough - the Oklahoma mornings were much kinder than the afternoons - and besides this was the time of day when the flowers bloomed. By nine they would have closed their multi-colored petals to avoid the heat and you would hardly be able to tell them from some vagrant weed. We worked silently for an hour or so every few weeks and in the mornings or evenings you could see the flowering of our labor.
                Those remembered mornings have become a metaphor for the undercurrent of sensuality that flowed beneath our lives in the fifties with their cold McCarthyism and Cold War. In the evenings we watched black and white, fear-filled television programs, I Led Three Lives or Dragnet, but the mornings were filled with colors, scents and the warm feel of the earth.
                Even though sexuality was something one hardly ever mentioned, our days were filled tacitly with sensuality. Buying a melon or a tomato would entail putting our noses right onto the fruit, thumping the cantaloupes at their softest place as if they were the friendly bottoms of dancing nymphs, or searching the umbilical spot on each tomato for the lush scent of ripeness.
                When we moved to Connecticut we would reach down into the murky, pungeant brine of the pickle barrels to fetch out dill gherkins so we later could slice them onto pink layers of pastrami. Then we would hurry to the bakers to get the fresh rye bread, just out of the oven, full of the scent of caraway and warm like the palm of hand. The bread had to be pinched together to slice and then covered with thick, yellow mustard, the pastrami and pickles.
                Now I think back on those straitlaced days and remember with delight and ever-increasing detail the multi-colored sights, smells, and sounds, even as the stringent blacks and whites that also abounded fade and swirl down the funnel of memory and are gone.

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