14. Tillingly


Yard slavery was not covered in the Emancipation Proclamation or in amendments to the Constitution, sadly. Free men, (at least we believe that we are free, but what is freedom? and where is an existential philosopher when you need one?  In a book in a coffee shop I bet.) labor over long weekends doing yard work for their masters, who in this case is a mistress but not that kind. And it’s not like that anyway. The mistress is the property that owns me, the half acre of grass and weeds that have the audacity to grow long and messy every week. Every seven days they conspire to overtake the castle (my raised rancher house with double deck off the back, four bedrooms, three baths, 2 car garage. Okay, a castlette). My weapons are the electric weedeater and the 6.5 horsepower push mower, a  heavy beast of burden that I push up and down slopes.

But grass cutting is a forever proposition that is seasonal. What caught my brain over the weekend was the four hours of garden tilling that I did. I feel the tillage debt in my hands and shoulders and lower back today. I don’t even know how to use the word tillage, but that won’t stop me. No, I plugged in that little four blade dirt-eating circular saw and tore into the sleepy earth. It was the equivalent of rock and roll versus the cultural silence of the 1950’s, and the silence didn’t have a chance. Purrrr,clack, rattle, purr,cha chink, clack, rattle, ping ping, purr,urrrrrrrr. That last sound is the potatoe-size rock stuck in between the tine wheels and the tiller housing.  Pause, hammer, shatter the sandstone or quartz rock and till on. Sounds easy enough. The tines dig in at ridiculous speeds and chew up solid dirt, turning it into fluffy soil that’s too soft to walk over, like moondust. Something like satisfaction begins to spread across the till master.  A metamorphosis begins.

After an hour or so your brain gets on the same electrical frequency as the tiller, allowing you to space out into other galaxies where free men are not tilling their gardens in hopes of fresh potatoes in the fall. Out, out into untilled space. Meanwhile you pick out all the rocks of any consequence and pitch them into the wagon parked next to the bare soil. These will go under the arbor vitae along the fence line, repurposed as decorative debris. And maybe a Jimi Hendrix song plays underneath the cognitions that cycle through the liberated mind of the 21st century tiller. Gouge, spin out, grind up. Maybe a Doors song would be more fitting. “Roll, baby, Roll!!” A rhythm evolves in the garden dirt. The tiller tickles rocks out of their nestled compactions, and you have to feel the vibrations and know when the rock is going to kick. This dance results in fewer stops and hammer blows to clear the tines.

And the fluffy dirt works better for producing desirable living things. Rocks are like problems that have to be solved then discarded. Dang, that’s a lot of problems in one vegetable garden. However, when you turn around and till the soil again, it’s like whipped butter. Makes me think of some of my counseling clients. It’s so hard to break out the problems in the first course of therapy. They resist the tilling questions and pauses that can be invasive and threatening. But in most cases their issues are fluffier as we go.  A lightness develops. The stuff of their lives is potentiated, aerated, and activated. No, it’s not that simple. There is no perfect analogy for such a complex experience. Tilling fits, though.

Yard slavery, I suppose, is a choice, which makes it not slavery. I choose to keep a yard so I choose to own and operate a bunch of machines that I can’t keep up with either– three chainsaws that don’t work; a snow blower that I could not get to start; two lawn mowers; a weedeater, a hedge trimmer, and various shovels, rakes, an electric leaf blower, a fertilizer spreader, hoses, etc. It’s a bit disturbing when I consider how much money it costs to be in the yard slavery game. When you add the house slavery to it, there is hardly time left for useless blogging about self-imposed slavery. I must choose. Do I continue to bang my head into solid immovable objects or not?  I have a hard head. I choose slavery.

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