Monday, May 28, 2012

way to grow

Summer has burst onto the scene, hotly and unapologetically. Plants double in size overnight. My mother's garden overflows with flowers. I tromped through the tall grass gathering daisies and wild phlox. In the garden of friends in Beacon, peonies and irises have been nodding over the ground, heavy with petals. Vegetable seedlings shoot skyward while weeds try to assert themselves against our valiant eviction efforts. I stopped by two farms I like, hoping for rhubarb, but it's late this year due to weather so I'm still waiting. I heard strawberry picking may be sparse for the same reason, which worries me, but I am a passionate devotee of strawberries and will find a way. Even without a garden of my own for the time being, I have resources. 
I have never actually owned a large plot, only a lovingly tended scattering of flowers, herbs and tomatoes clustered around my rented stoop the four summers prior to this past one. But I can apply my enthusiasm and elbow grease to other people's gardens in the meantime, and help them eat the bounty later in the summer if it comes to that.

I just began reading a book I found at a used-book sale yesterday, of art criticism/essays circa 1935-75 by the painter and critic Fairfield Porter. I like his paintings, and the fact that he was also an artist made him a better writer. He understood, and could write more directly, about the energy between what an artist can control and talk about, and what actually happens in the painting. Usually that gap eludes critics who focus more on the formal elements when discussing a work of art. He avoided excess adjectives, which in their preoccupation with those elements attempt to characterize a work without finding its energy. The book's introduction by Rackstraw Downes, another artist I dig, likens this to "the gap between the recipe and the dish". To someone who has been known to wield a paintbrush in one hand and a spatula in the other, this makes perfect sense. Just like planting seeds. There's a chemistry, a science to be sure, but there's something else happening, mysterious and thrilling.

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