Yesterday I was doing some work for friends of mine, the wonderful Anne and Paul who have a condo on East 9th Street. Anne read my blog about being out of work a few weeks ago, and graciously offered me some work.
There were two things on the agenda, the repair and painting of the ceiling of their downstairs neighbor, due to water damage; and the cleaning of their deck in the backyard.
I was back and forth between the two tasks, as the repair involved some minor plastering and the plaster has to dry before it can be sanded and painted.
I started on Thursday, and one of the deck tasks was to clean up all of the dead vegetation collected in the nooks and crannies of the deck and its various planters/flowerpots.
On Thursday I found this:
Green shoots already growing through the dead vegetation looking to grab some sun.
I cleared most of the vegetation from the deck, and I’m supposed to give it a waterproofing treatment, but in moving a lot of the big ceramic pots I found that the deck was very damp in a lot of places, and the deck must be dry for 48 hours before the sealant can be applied. I filled two big black garbage bags with leaves and branches.
When I went back yesterday Anne was a little more specific, saying she wanted the dead leaves out of the planters as well. I know that rotting vegetation becomes compost and becomes good loam after a while, so I’d left it there. But I guess she wanted it out for aesthetic reasons.
As I started to remove the leaves I found this:
Little green buds of something unknown hiding beneath the dead leaves.
It was still a little chilly yesterday and I wore a sweatshirt hoodie. If the sun had been constantly out I would have no need for the hoodie, but the sun was intermittent.
Of course, I started thinking of the Beatle’s Here Comes The Sun.
And it has been a long, cold but not particularly lonely winter. A lot has happened to me since the beginning of winter.
Danusia and I tried to buy a house in Far Rockaway, and that fell through.
I shoveled a lot of snow at work and listened to a lot of complaining about what a horrible winter it was.
My friend Maggie died in the dead of winter, and when I went up to Hudson for her memorial I couldn’t help but marvel at how beautiful the snow was upstate, and that Maggie was at least buried in a beautiful place.
Jenny and Maggie.
Then I lost my job, not long after that. Maybe it was good luck we didn’t get that house after all.
On Anne and Paul’s deck there are two skylights for the duplex below, protected by a big iron-barred cage. The cage was filled with dead leaves, and I made a futile attempt to at least sweep some of the leaves off of the skylights on Thursday. On Friday Anne showed me how the gate on top of the cage can be lifted to allow better access to the skylights and the deep furrows between the frame of the cage and the sides of the skylights. The furrows were deeply packed with leaves. On this part of the porch there is no decking, just the bare tar roof beneath. It looked as if it hadn’t been cleaned in years.
You can see the black soil to the right of the pile of leaves.
As I started raking up the leaves I discovered that at the very bottom was the rich black earth that was the result of decaying vegetation being eaten by worms and then defecated out. Nutrient rich black loam is basically worm shit. But it sure does smell nice. I love the smell of rich soil; it brings back memories of my mom’s spring planting when I was a kid. She was an avid gardener, and had to make do with the gardens on our windowsills made of clay. Once she even had me climb a chain link fence and steal some potting soil from the NYCHA garden shed in the projects we lived in, that’s how important it was to my mom, the farmer’s daughter.
I picked up a pinch of the soil in my fingers and held it up to my nose, relishing the smell, the smell of the cycle of life. The nutrients in the soil feed the plants, the plants die and feed the worms, and the worms make new soil for other plants to make the world beautiful. And so it goes.
The same with people, we do things that others admire, bad things happen to us, we persevere, and others learn and want to follow, improve, delight, as I have followed Maggie, and maybe someday someone will follow me.