I READ recently about someone who was knitting hats, it was all she could do to cope. Knit pink hats, and send them out into the world. I indulged a few moments of wishing I could knit, too, could produce something of practical value that someone would actually benefit from. A small-scale, concrete yet meaningful act to contrast the broad, lunatic strokes currently in practice by certain people I’d rather leave unnamed. Baking. Doing favors. Paying it forward. Crochet. Knitting.
As the world spins off its axis, I imagine I’m not the only one who’s taking solace in small gestures. Not so grand that they require acrobatics to accomplish — just simple, and achievable, and satisfying.
So today, after delivering le petit garçon to school I basked in the pleasure and simple grace of bringing our food scraps to the community compost pile.
I relished the journey to the park alongside the canal. As usual I endeavored to sneak glimpses of the interiors of the docked boats. What is that life like? How do they keep such a small space organized and neat? I love to wonder.
I passed one of my favorite boulangeries, and smiled as a patron paused to offer oranges to the man sitting outside.
I walked by Musée Georges-Labit, neighborhood treasure, which le petit garçon has visited twice and whose collection he and his classmates have studied and emulated through their words, drawings, paintings, poetry, tea ceremony, dance.
I arrived at the park, and the containers greeted me cheerfully. Brief prayer of thanks to whoever thought to include illustrations along with instructions on the key actions of composting, for the linguistically challenged among us.
As I dumped my kitchen scraps in the bin and watched my eggshells fall, I saw in my mind’s eye the woman at the market selling just eggs, tucked behind the church in back of all the big stalls.
I saw the family with their bird cages, discussing with patrons the merits of one chicken over another.
I watched the squash peelings descend and join their associates, and thought of my belly and kidneys who happily digest the winter harvest. The walnut shells brought to mind the woman at the market who assured me emphatically that they are from this very region. The coffee grinds made me think of my roaster, a spitting image of Daniel Radcliffe, and how awkward I feel each time I walk into his shop — in some cases because I have literally tripped over a bag of coffee beans on my way in and because I can never, ever seem find the right words. But I respect and appreciate his work so I return anyway, pulling up on my bicycle and taking a deep anti-anxiety breath before entering.
I observed that my fellow Toulousains are eating a lot of leeks, squash, cabbage, and citrus these days.
I saw the bird perched there, my observant greeter. Comment tu t’appelle?
I thought of my dearest friend, whose father has been given a diagnosis of just a few more months in this earthly form. He told his family No funeral, and they discussed what to do with his ashes. “Sprinkle me here, sprinkle me there,” he said. I thought of how he’ll be fertilizer in the future, and how much he has already given in his own way to my friend, and their family, in his life.
I forewent the trowel and dug my bare hands into the dirt and earth, savored the feel of leaves and sticks and brown stuff. As I did I thought about how I am En Maturation also. The need to go inward, to refuel, to curb outside influence while I tend to the garden inside.
How I miss a garden. I miss Kate, and her jubliant garden. I miss going to the Red Butte plant sale in May and comparing notes with my mom, always spending more than we’d planned. Thinking I’m crazy to plant these sugar snaps in the cold spring soil until they do it again, miraculously arriving in May and June, and I wander gratefully among them, picking and eating.
I stuffed my bag back into my pocket and returned home to cook, to fuel, and to turn it round again. I cheered the opportunity to turn garbage into rich soil. To transform, become something of value. Winter is essential; but Oh I am impatient for spring.