Friday, 6 January 2017

(Some) Earth as a player's stage

Sharing your New Year’s resolutions publicly increases your chances of sticking by them. That, at least, is the claim made in an article I skimmed in the Otago Daily Times early this year, just after having made my resolution to read more carefully. So here goes. And on the off-chance any of you are on good terms with Rongo yourself, put in a word for me.

When we moved to our house in early Autumn last year there was a beautifully ordered vegetable garden at the back prepared and left ready from the previous owners. It was sleek, full of the produce of the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, and an inspiration. I stood looking at it on the day we took possession, inspired. And then I spent the rest of the year neglecting it – and the rest of the garden, for that matter – until the weeds and the bolting and the general going to seed (the garden; myself, dear reader…) all took off. A stray – and self-seeded – new potato discovered perfectly-formed quite by accident just before Christmas last year made me feel guilty – and inclined to resolutions – around all of this neglect. Hence what’s to follow.

If any of you are gardeners yourselves please read on with a generous eye – too self-centred ever to help my own father in the garden when I was a child, and much too priggish ever to learn from my many talented gardener friends now I’m a man, I’m starting this with nothing but three decades’ accumulated ignorance and a new copy of the Yate’s guide as my companions.

Here’s what’s to come:

This has been sown with green onion (ishikura) seeds.

This patch has been sown with carrots, with two stray potatoes (?) I’m not sure what to do with yet.

Here’s where the courgettes went.

There are buckets that have – no doubt planted much too closely together – bean seeds in them, but they're too ugly to photograph.

And here – the coward’s option – are seedlings even I ought not to be able to mangle.


My other resolutions are the same as every other year: to try to contribute usefully (more usefully) to the socialist movement in Aotearoa; to be a better and more patient father; to write well; to get somewhere with my language studies.

All this resolving, weeding and planting in the open air fills one with energy and liveliness. But has anyone asked Summer how they feel? Thomas Nashe did:

Adieu, farewell earth’s bliss,
This world uncertain is;
Fond are life’s lustful joys,
Death proves them all but toys,
None from his darts can fly.
I am sick, I must die.
            Lord have mercy on us!

Rich men, trust not in wealth,
Gold cannot buy you health;
Physic himself must fade,
All things to end are made.
The plague full swift goes by;
I am sick, I must die.
            Lord have mercy on us!

Beauty is but a flower
Which wrinkles will devour;
Brightness falls from the air,
Queens have died young and fair,
Dust hath closed Helen’s eye.
I am sick, I must die.
            Lord have mercy on us!

Strength stoops unto the grave,
Worms feed on Hector brave,
Swords may not fight with fate.
Earth still holds ope her gate;
Come! come! the bells do cry.
I am sick, I must die.
            Lord have mercy on us!

Wit with his wantonness
Tasteth death’s bitterness;
Hell’s executioner
Hath no ears for to hear
What vain art can reply.
I am sick, I must die.
            Lord have mercy on us!

Haste, therefore, each degree,
To welcome destiny.
Heaven is our heritage,
Earth but a player’s stage;
Mount we unto the sky;
I am sick, I must die.
            Lord have mercy on us!

(This fellow was as uninterested in the English Renaissance as most of my bird friends seem to be).


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