Jan 1 2011

Work and days

January 1 2011 Sunny and 68 degrees.

I’ve been in the garden, obviously. Sawing up old trees with the pruning saw mom and dad bought me, and feeling profoundly grateful for the leather gardening gloves they bought me as well. The beds are laid out, now I just need the extra dirt and compost.

The garden, january 1 2011I was listening to Hesoid, Work and Days, while I raked, sawed, hoed, pruned, clipped and cleared. I thought it would be appropriate. I went through it twice, but I think I’m going to give up on him. I like the notion of these long poetical works on practical and scientific subjects—Hesiod on farming, Lucretius on science (“the nature of things”), Virgil’s Georgics. But while Virgil is very beautiful, filled with vivid pictures of working the lands in season, and while Lucretius still manages to sing-song his way to a theory of an infinite universe (I love that his “proof” that all matter contains empty space is contained in the fact that you can hear sounds in another room, even if the door is closed), Hesiod is none of these things. His poem is pedantic and dry. It may be the translation that is wanting, but since the translator of the version I’m listening to is Richmond Lattimore, I think not. Mostly it is—at least on agriculture—a collection of directives: “On this day, sow your corn. On this one, harvest your grapes.” Useful, no doubt, but a far cry from Virgil, who tells us how birds fly up all of a sudden when they sense an oncoming storm, and how the light from the oil lamp in front of the girls working at their looms will gutter without warning, in portent of the same. Or how to tell if the soil of the land is light and good, or sour, by filling a leaky basket with the dirt and pouring water through, so that you can taste the run off for bitterness or salt.

If I had an ounce of poetry in me I’d write something like Georgics for my garden, which is, at the moment, a collection of raked and empty beds. Like my empty bookcases from last week, they are all potential and possibility.