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Poem: "Dirt and Nails" - The Wordsmith's Forge
The Writing & Other Projects of Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith
ysabetwordsmith
Poem: "Dirt and Nails"

This poem came out of the March 2013 Creative Jam.  It was inspired by a prompt from Dreamwidth user Chordatesrock, and also fills the #18 Hand slot on the Rainbowfic Vellum list.  It has been sponsored by technoshaman.  This poem belongs to the series An Army of One: The Autistic Secession in Space.


Dirt and Nails


Sam remembers when everything was simpler,
before he learned all about data collation,
before he joined the war
and then the secession.

He remembers living on a planet,
where a garden was a thing of dirt and nails,
raised beds and rabbit invasions,
rather than bits and bytes
rendered on a screen of many colors.

There was a feed & seed store
in the little town where he lived,
where they used to go for garden supplies;
he can still recall the rich thick scent of it,
dusty seed potatoes and bags of grain,
paper packets of corn tied with string
and labeled in a neat hand.

Sam worries about the transfer,
although he tries not to show it --
Miles and the OCS-397
have granted him every courtesy
while carrying him to Supply Base Bounty 3D3N --
but it gnaws at him anyway,
like a worm at a root.

He fidgets with his hands,
which are clean now
and have been for years,
no fertile crescent of earth
ground beneath the nails.

Everyone and everything
depends on him now,
and he's never done more than
putter with hydroponics,
hasn't touched trowel to topsoil
in longer than he can recall.

The perilous novelty of this situation
intimidates him in ways he cannot articulate,
but it bears down on him, inescapable as the rain.

Sam fiddles with the files
that he has collected on gardening,
filling his head with familiar data
as a distraction from these unfamiliar days.

Soon, too soon,
the jumpship will dock
at the supply base and they will
expect him to do what he's come to do.

For now, though,
he can lose himself
in the memories of living
on a planet whose black earth
answered to his hand, all written out
in the pages of an almanac, on seed packets,
the lines left by a rake dragged over smooth soil.

There will be time enough,
later, to face the new memories
that he must make.

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11 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
From: technoshaman Date: May 27th, 2013 09:39 pm (UTC) (Link)
*empathy* tough enough to make over your life once. To do it twice... and always the uncertainty...

:like:
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: May 27th, 2013 10:00 pm (UTC) (Link)

Yes...

This repetition of restart actually applies to a lot of characters in the Lacuna. It's just more dramatic with Sam because he has to move in order to take up his new role. Then too, it's a vivid source of tension because neurovariant people often stress more over changes than neurotypical people do.
From: rhodielady_47 Date: April 10th, 2015 03:00 am (UTC) (Link)
This one hits me where I live.
When we finally bought a house, it had been over ten years since the last time I did any gardening.
Suddenly I found myself having to relearn everything I used to know and use without thinking about it.
And then I found out that I had to learn how to garden in zone 5 because there were so many things that grew effortlessly in zone 7-8 which died without warning in zone 5.
"...because neurovariant people often stress more over changes than neurotypical people do."
Considering how stressful I find change, I can only imagine how hard if must be for them....
:^|

ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: April 10th, 2015 03:05 am (UTC) (Link)

Thoughts

>>This one hits me where I live.<<

*hugs*

>> When we finally bought a house, it had been over ten years since the last time I did any gardening.
Suddenly I found myself having to relearn everything I used to know and use without thinking about it. <<

Yep, that can happen.

>> And then I found out that I had to learn how to garden in zone 5 because there were so many things that grew effortlessly in zone 7-8 which died without warning in zone 5. <<

When I was little, this place was Zone 5b. It is now 6a. That is changing what grows here, sometimes in disturbing ways.

I don't care if velvet ants think they have a right to be here now. I disagree and will make my argument with the sole of my shoe.

>> "...because neurovariant people often stress more over changes than neurotypical people do."
Considering how stressful I find change, I can only imagine how hard if must be for them....
:^| <<

Stress and change tolerance varies. On average, neurovariant people have less than neurotypical people, but there are still some neurotypical people who are very change-averse -- and probably some neurovariant people who seek out novelty.
From: rhodielady_47 Date: April 10th, 2015 04:51 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thoughts

I'm still stubbornly referring to my area as hardiness zone 5 because we've had at least one cold snap that went down to nearly -20F each winter since we first moved here (except for the year we had a Mississippi winter).
I pity the poor fools who buy the zone 7 plants the local Lowe's store insists on selling here.
:^\
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: April 10th, 2015 06:18 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thoughts

Oh, the cold snaps haven't gotten any less. It's the heat and other conditions that have shifted. So instead of a one-zone buffer (4-6), I'm now trying to plant things with a 2-zone buffer (4-8). That way they can take the cold and the heat. I also have to worry about rainfall, because sometimes it floods but now we have baking droughts too. Few plants can withstand both. I've started paying attention to wind and ice resistance of trees, which have become far more important in the last decade or two. I have regretfully decided not to replant anything that dies because of extreme weather.
From: rhodielady_47 Date: April 11th, 2015 03:00 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thoughts

"I have regretfully decided not to replant anything that dies because of extreme weather."
You will be much happier in the long run by following this idea.
There are a lot of plants though that can thrive in the central US though, so don't give up hope, although it can take a lot of digging around to find information about them.
BTW: There are quite a few ways to stack the gardening deck in your favor too. One thing that helps me a great deal in my war on weeds is using plain brown cardboard as mulch around my plants. I then put leaves or grass clippings on top of the cardboard and then, if it's where lots of people will see it, I put a bit of woodchip mulch on top of those leaves/grass clippings to make it look nice. After all, who's going to be so rude as to dig into your flowerbeds to find out how deep your mulch is?
Every fall I stockpile as many bags of raked leaves as I can lay hands on. I then use them to mulch my plants all the rest of the year. Best of all, they're FREE!
:^}

ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: April 11th, 2015 03:17 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thoughts

>> You will be much happier in the long run by following this idea. <<

I decided on that after reading about stand-replacing events. That can be wind, fire, pests, etc. and some will regenerate but others won't. I'm trying to map trends and facilitate adaptation, the way nature does. So if a tree dies due to drought or gets completely torn apart by wind, it means that type of tree doesn't really belong here anymore.

Conversely, black walnut trees would barely grow here when I was little, and we let stay any that sprouted; we had a good handful of them. Now they grow like weeds. Their wood is tough, their branch pattern makes them resistant to wind and ice, not much likes to eat them, and they have good tolerance of heat and cold.

>> There are a lot of plants though that can thrive in the central US though, so don't give up hope, although it can take a lot of digging around to find information about them. <<

True. I am doing more with native plants than with imports now.

>> BTW: There are quite a few ways to stack the gardening deck in your favor too. One thing that helps me a great deal in my war on weeds is using plain brown cardboard as mulch around my plants. I then put leaves or grass clippings on top of the cardboard and then, if it's where lots of people will see it, I put a bit of woodchip mulch on top of those leaves/grass clippings to make it look nice. After all, who's going to be so rude as to dig into your flowerbeds to find out how deep your mulch is? <<

I use wood chips or leaves, sometimes with groundcloth underneath.

Also, my detritus food chain is three days to apex. We had a large tree come down, and called out a service to chip the branches. Then it rained. On the third day, I went out to look at my new mulch pile. It was already thoroughly threaded with fungi, crawling with pillbugs and centipedes, and when I poked it, out hopped a toad! Which is of course a zillion times faster than that is supposed to happen, so it shows how overbuilt the environment is here. :D I pretty much can't stick a shovel in the ground without turning up earthworms.
From: rhodielady_47 Date: April 11th, 2015 03:35 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thoughts

"....so it shows how overbuilt the environment is here."
I think that is more a sign of a healthy environment.
Lots of earthworms means that there is plenty of dead organic matter for them to eat.
When we first bought the house, we never saw an earthworm hardly and now there's lots of them.
Another slick trick I like using is Hügelkultur.
(Wikipedia has a good beginning article on it.)
The idea of burying dead branches, sawdust and wood scraps under a plant to serve as a water reservoir is a wonderful idea.

I've abandoned using groundcloth because you get stuck having to dig it out every time the mulch you lay on top of it rots away and that's no fun at all. Also, you have to pay a pretty fair amount for it. Cardboard costs you nothing.
(I've been using cardboard now for going on TEN YEARS.)
:^}
From: (Anonymous) Date: April 23rd, 2016 06:05 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thoughts

These are good plant things. I am relearning how to garden in a community bed instead of a suburban house garden, the PNW instead of the Midwest, and with my current schedule. It is exciting. And one reason the garden bed of the school of hard knocks is so large is that sometimes it is worth more to go do the things that may screw up, and learn from them, then to try to predict without hands-on collaboration with your ecosystem. You listen to your trees and toads. You are allies to paper pulp and earthworms. Thank you. --alatefeline
ysabetwordsmith From: ysabetwordsmith Date: April 23rd, 2016 06:11 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thoughts

>>These are good plant things.<<

Yay!

>> I am relearning how to garden in a community bed instead of a suburban house garden, the PNW instead of the Midwest, and with my current schedule. It is exciting. <<

Good for you! Look for gardening books local to you. Also check out permaculture. Even if you don't want to go all-out with it, modeling your work on nature is highly effective.

>> And one reason the garden bed of the school of hard knocks is so large is that sometimes it is worth more to go do the things that may screw up, and learn from them, then to try to predict without hands-on collaboration with your ecosystem. You listen to your trees and toads. You are allies to paper pulp and earthworms. Thank you. <<

Clue! Gardening relies a lot on trial-and-error.
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