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It's Nelly's World

Victory Garden

alec vanderboom

There is a certain beauty in necessity.

Here is the golden coin I found buried in the dirt. At first it looked ugly, worthless, and it hurt my fingers to scrabble so for it in the hard ground. Important lessons arrive in frost heave. But now I am seeing how it reflects an impossibly warm light. After endless, merciless washings.

This is all I will say about the place I am at now. But for those impatient with the obliqueness crap, I offer a translation. I'm getting it. The stuff adversity wanted to teach me. Like a perverse Santa Claus, he cracked me savagely across the jaw, then stood back and smiled, proffering some lovely gifts wrapped in self-improvement-design paper. Way to go, Santa. They're just what I needed!

[Melissa est morte. Vive Melissa!]

Less wifty-vague is my second, related realization this week: that you're a fool if you don't plant a vegetable garden. (Apologies to those who don't have sunny enough ground, or any ground: you are not foolish, just unlucky.) This is going to become more apparent over the next year, alas, so I would encourage you to get busy now. This is that lovely time for dreams: the seed catalogs start appearing in mailboxes still nailed shut by frost in the morning. A fantasy on glossy paper. How I remember those years when I could fully participate in the mental sowing of those fantastical seeds, which would grow into lush greenness (unaffected by blight) and heavy fruit overnight, in dreams. As it was, in reality, I was able to have rainbow chard in profusion, and cilantro, basil, lettuce, and cherry tomatoes; dinner outside the door, already warmed by the sun.

This gift, wrapped inside our current state of woe--because growing a garden is a sensual pleasure, on top of being a new necessity--is a result of the crumbling of capitalist castles in the air. (Limestone is good for soil.) It may well bring us to a communist future, whether we wanted one or not. I'm not talking about the one when a controlling government snatches the best for itself, and distributes the crumbs to everyone else. And I'm not talking about the kind of communist future I glimpsed when I flirted with the actual Communists--yes, because I was a pissed-off, disaffected youth, but perhaps equally because I thought the charismatic blond guy who wrote their zine was awfully cute--the future where "bloody heads will roll down Park Avenue." (This he said with a wide smile, and that is when I decided he was maybe not so cute after all.)

I speak of true communism, where we have to help one another, or we won't eat. In lieu of the garden vegetables I probably won't get to have this year either, I will trade you some bread, either quick or yeasted, OK?

Just a quick question: Where in the stimulus package is all the money for community gardens? Just thought you might know. Billions for car manufacturers; none for good food. Well, something to think about, anyway, eh?

So this is not all bad, this backward gift from the economy. Sometimes adversity brings presents with tears rolling down them; sometimes with dirt clinging to their fragrant roots. Something to hold out to another in need, and receive back their thanks like sunshine. But do wash carefully; grit between the teeth, you know. Bon appetit!