The Riva in Split Croatia – in winter
Let me express OUT LOUD (can you hear that?) I don’t do deprivation well! As a mindful sensualist (my term) everything exists in the mere possibility of providing or deriving pleasure from; e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g.
Prompted by plans (firming up) to arrive in Croatia that I had to really-better-do-something about being able to sport a bathing suit (okay anyone can wear one, but if you think my butt looks like the one at right you are suffering from sunstroke) without embarrassment. And let us not even get into (out of?) a Croatian bikini discussion right now!
I have been making myself kale smoothies for about a year (honest you can’t taste the kale in its uncooked state) but I have decided that since eating veggies and fruits has never been an issue for me the next (logical) step – to embrace the awesome example (and astonishing achievement realised) of Joe (Cross) the Juicer in Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead – make no mistake this is hard! I am someone who bites into life – as well as ice cubes, hard candy, and Granny Smith apples – with almost reckless abandon – so the mere idea of sipping, frankly, sucks! Starting my day, and working through it, with 2 quarts of kale leaves, a large peeled cucumber, a piece of ginger, dark chia seeds, unsweetened (even by a nominal amount of honey) herbal tea, a banana and add various frozen fruit only makes my mouth happy in the sense of tasting like a Warhead in its tartness; whereas I am sure my insides are eternally grateful.
I am not one to waste anything, so the second benefit of all of this smoothie juice making going into me are the trimmings going into my garden – and this is important – because any kind of renewal and growth requires nourishment. After my 2 quarts is made in the morning – a day’s worth of “sipping” – I put a quart of water in the blender and add the cucumber peels, the kale stems, the ginger peelings, the banana peels, pineapple rind, mango peels (et al), and the tea bags (organic, no tags, strings or staples) for worm food.
The space that is now “my garden” was, for nearly 90 years, an ugly backfilled, bone dry, not-even-a-grub-let-alone-an-earthworm-inhabited dirt the texture of concrete mix (and just about the same colour), riddled with old crockery, shards of glass, rusty metal bits, roof slates, bricks (mostly broken) and rocks of various sizes with a skim coat of long depleted topsoil. It was a weed choked, un-loved, disused, centre courtyard of my apartment building in the autumn of 2008 when I started – my landlord said “nothing will grow there” (well, I said, it will when I am done with it).
Dormant season – first bed, centre square bed
I started with a square, centred in the space so that if you were on the roof deck looking down it would be like a floral postage stamp. I dug down 22” below the grade, 18 feet square by hand – more than 95% of the work on my own – (every subsequent bed has had the same treatment). Every shovel-full of dirt was sifted through a frame of 2x4s and ½” stainless wire (at least twice) into more 5 gallon buckets and my arms and back gained definition (and aches) as I worked in compost and coffee grounds and manure and (lots of) bags of peat moss. I culled seeds, traded plant stock, begged plants from complete strangers, spent money I didn’t have and that wasn’t reimbursed (the garden might be enjoyed by many and enhance the property overall but my landlord could care less about it) and baked for my nurseryman and his wife in exchange for plants.
My version of trench warfare!
The various local Starbucks got sick of seeing me drop off my five gallon orange buckets to be filled with spent coffee grounds (which worms LOVE). My girlfriend Amy probably felt the same way each time I asked if I could come out to her farm about her horse poo (deeply composted) rich with super fat earthworms (which would now be happily processing the coffee grounds, egg shells and the rest of my organic kitchen matter as worked into various beds). The nurturance I offered this tiny plot of land brought with it a kind of lush beauty which can only be realised with patience and love.
I stand in wonder some days after raking and plucking weeds, or after splitting plants and transplanting – oh, what we are capable of when we give of ourselves (and what we get in return). Which brings me back to loving – ourselves.
Spring is all about rebirth and growth. The discovery of self can happen in an instant, quite unexpectedly, and it’s often because someone else thrusts upon us a truth that is undeniable. My friend Mladen and I were on Skype last night and he was telling me about a writer (ancient historian) who lived in Croatia and then, the unexpected segue of – you are a writer, people have been chronicling human history here forever, you will have no problem finding work and earning money here because we value such observations. When taken with my new friend Deborah’s words of:
“Just finished your book. You have an amazingly distinct and memorable voice. Full of so much exuberance, wisdom, storytelling and warmth. Thank you so much for gifting us with a copy. You are a singular woman my friend.”
Suddenly, inexplicably, I am no longer someone who uses words and writes for herself (after 40 years of doing so) but someone who gives expression to emotions, and the human condition AS A WRITER (I am now, officially, unapologetically, and long overdue, “owning that”). If I can patiently reclaim a bit of earth and create a garden then I can embrace the deprivation of juicing, and get back into my 36C bras. In the meantime I will load up on emotions and superlatives, remain a keen observer and a sensualist and (hopefully) become the writer I am meant to be.
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