I took a walk to a nearby section where an old house had recently been demolished. They are building shops there. I dug up a wormwood plant and rescued an iron gate from a skip which I’ll use as a frame for beans in the vegetable garden.
When I walk I am looking for stray plants and clues of what other humans are doing, their leavings, their signs.
So many gardens are neglected and full of mistakes – odd plantings, strange schemes gone wrong. It’s a lexicon of thwarted plans, migration, human error. But I love all the gardens, all of them. I love where weeds come in and grow where no one thought there was any dirt. I love the twee tidy gardens around the brick units where the widows live – all pansies and polyanthus and tight little roses. I love the student flat gardens with the crushed comfrey and the gnarled old lemon trees. There is a place deep in my heart for the gardens inside the gates of kindergartens – old tractor tyres full of marigolds and strawberry plants, glitter and matchbox cars.
These dahlias were planted behind a tin-shed, hard up against a damp bank…..in entirely the wrong place and where no one can see them (except me, because I creep and snoop) so I pick them and drop them at a friend’s door.
I pick up windfall apples from the house across from the supermarket. They are a bit bruised but will do for pie. At another house someone has left ice-cream containers of passionfruit for $2 each on their fence. I take one and leave a coin in the letterbox.
I don’t fully understand my own instinct for gleaning. It’s more than acquisition. It’s something to do with control, and side-stepping capitalism and burrowing into a universe where people trade in fruit and the urban environment is one big shared playground. I like my own company but I spend too much time in it and then I read the street and try to draw meaning from the random and the incidental.
Occasionally a garden is stunning and special and makes perfect sense, but these gardens are rare:
Right now, there is an American oil company doing exploratory drilling in the hills near Dannevirke. If they find enough, they have plans to frack for oil. Local farmers and Iwi have been protesting there this week and it is getting almost no media coverage. There are similar exploratory tests going on near Whangarei, but for gold.
I have been following the effects of fracking in Pennsylvania, USA where fracking for natural gas has been happening for some years now. None of the news is good. Profound pollution, deformities and stillbirths in animal stock, rising cancer rates and the tap water is flammable.
Hold a lighter to your running tap and it lights up. Imagine.
Parts of the Manawatu River are so polluted from intensive dairy farming and factory run-off IT SPONTANEOUSLY CATCHES FIRE.
Water on fire. Water on fire.
On the way to pick the youngest up from school I pass a house with a big walnut tree. There are walnuts all over the path, so I pick them up. I always carry a cloth bag in my hand bag for spontaneous foraging. It’s like maybe if I notice the trees enough, maybe if I honour the fruit enough, maybe if I pick up enough windfalls and rescue enough plants….maybe then…? Maybe then.