Watch my Garden Grow

In a post not-too-long ago, my brother compiled a song-list for gardening. I think a lot of us have such informal sound tracks—sometimes we make them on purpose with iTunes playlists, or, in the old days, a mix-tape. Music is so elemental and visceral that it easily cleaves to our daily lives; in addition, our steady modern diet of television and movies all set to finely selected soundtracks conditions us to hear musical accompaniment for everything.

Or something like that.

The reason my brother’s post is worth going back to (other than the fact that it is fascinating and his list is pretty great) is also connected to what music does for us and to us: it makes us remember. But the kind of memory my brother talked about doesn’t come from music alone, it comes from working the land where my father put his hands, from turning the soil my father toiled over, and from tending the plants my father left behind him.

See, my post is about how my brother’s relationship to the land my father left us is a metaphor for his grief and the way he is honoring my father’s memory. My gardening music and my abandonment of the land is equally metaphorical. We have both been set adrift by our grief; our reactions have trapped us in turn. I’ll have a list of gardening music too.

Song 1: Rogue Wave: “Publish My Love”—a song I could not get enough of when I first got my own property. I can still recall pulling weeds in the rain with my headphones tucked under a hooded sweatshirt.

Let’s start with something unnerving. A few months before my father died, he gave a group of books to his only grandchild at the time, my daughter. Among them was a book entitled The Farmer, perhaps selected in remembrance of a book I loved when I was a toddler called Farmer Jones. Inside the book, my father wrote “You come from farmers. And always remember—you sow what you reap. Sow what you reap.”

What my father wrote

I didn’t find this epigraph until my father was a year gone. And when I did, I immediately started weeping. Never mind that we have long been crap farmers or that my father mysteriously  (or mistakenly) reversed the phrase “reap what you sow”. All I could think of was what he was thinking when he wrote that less than two months before he died. Did he have regrets? Did he know more than we did?

Song 2: Feist, “Mushaboom”—another song that I brought with me from NYC. I always loved the simple life evoked by the singer, the small house, children, the quiet. My wife and I bought and gutted a foreclosed house and did everything we could together from painting, to tile, to refinishing cabinets. The outside was mine alone.

My father and mother bought several acres of mixed woods—white pine, some scotch pine, birches in the front, a sprinkling of old apple trees, lilac bushes and some poplars near the road—and spent years taming it and creating a lawn. While he left most of the trees, my father was tireless in clearing scrub and fashioning gardens at my mother’s whims. His creations weren’t perfect, but they absorbed his sweat, his energy, his life.

When I was young, my father and mother grew vegetables in the back yard of our old house.  I still remember picking green beans from the garden and shelling peas. To this day I cannot snap into a fresh green bean without remembering the walk up the hill, the smell of the old Irish setter, and the cold, dark colors of my family’s first home.

Song 3: John Denver’s rendition of “The Garden Song”. I think I learned this song from my mother; I know I sang it in kindergarten and I am pretty sure my father knew the words. I often sing the first few lines for my children now. My eyes never fail to water.

I live in one of those ridiculous suburbs that have green lawn rules and where the local HOA can fine you if your yard is not up to community standards. The threat of fines wasn’t what made me want to make my yard look good, however.  Every time I looked at my lawn, I could hear my father telling me to take pride in what I owned. I knew how to plant, water, weed, prune, build stone walls, care for trees, prepare garden beds from scratch—I knew all these things because I had done them with my father.

Even during the summer my daughter was born, I was out in triple-digit temperatures mowing, edging, weeding and watering my lawn because I knew when my father came to visit he’d tell me where I needed to re-seed, where I needed to aerate, because he’d tell me to take pride in what I own. Now, let me be clear, even if I had let it all go to weeds, my father would merely make a joke of it. But he took yardwork so seriously that I couldn’t imagine not doing so.

Song 4: Bon Iver, “Skinny Love”—in my last year of serious yardwork, I fell in love with this song. It’s haunting falsetto vocals, and distancing, alienating feel, almost made me feel cool under the hot sun.

The summer after my father died was the driest in generations. It cost more to water the lawn than it did to pay HOA fines. But this is not why I stopped working on the yard. I couldn’t handle it. When the lawnmower wouldn’t work, I fixed it the way my father would; when the soil needed aeration, I tried to do it myself and failed, unlike my father. Every time I put on the gardening shoes and looked at the dry dirt edged with green and browns that only comes from long afternoons in the garden, I thought of those afternoons I spent as a child watching my father in the yard and then, later, helping him.

And I couldn’t handle it. I selfishly thought of all the hours he spent in the yard and not with his children. Then, I thought of all the energy he expelled for something that suddenly seemed to superficial and silly. I told my wife that I had too much work to do; I told my neighbors that it was unethical to water in a drought; I told myself I had to spend more time with my daughter before a new child arrived.

But the truth was, I think I only worked on my yard because I wanted my father to be proud of me.

And now? My brother lightly (and not so lightly) mocks me because I have hired someone to do it for me. We live in a different house in another community with an evil HOA and I refuse even to buy a lawnmower. Unlike my father, I don’t get any pleasure from working this land.It is dry, it is barren, and the work seems a performance for others, not a search for a deeper understanding of self. Even though I own it, I feel like a temporary visitor. I know I will sell this property; I will never leave it to my children.

This place, and this world, I am just passing through. I cannot bear to garden here, because every plant that dies and every one that blooms reminds me of what is coming and what has gone. I cannot garden anymore, for now, because my father’s voice still echoes.

Sow what you reap?

Song 5: Micah P. Hinson “Yard of Blonde Girls”—imagine if people grew like flowers? This song has one of the best ‘builds’ of any song I have heard in a while. Hinson knows his crescendo.

My brother tends the land my father works and it is both a statement of his love for my parents and a metaphor for how we tend the memory of those we lose. He tries to keep everything my father planted, but time changes it—what he can, he makes better; what he cannot improve, he casts aside.

I ignore the land I own because my father never touched it. I tend his memories elsewhere, trying like my brother to cast aside what is of no use, and to bring to health whatever my father planted—my brother, myself, my sister, my children.

Inch by inch, row by row. My father made his garden grow.

I fixed my record player!

After months of doing nothing about it and occasionally asking the lead singer in my band for help, I fixed the receiver part of my turn table so I can again spin records. I missed it so much that I listened to records all morning while cleaning up the house and making breakfast instead of writing this very blog post that I started Sunday morning. My iPod is long broken, my cd collection is a mess and the PA in my jam room is not hooked up so the vinyl set up is my only way to let loose with the tunes besides a couple ancient radios. Vinyl is the best way to listen to music and I didn’t realize how much I missed it until the first few chords of the song below rang out in my living room at a high volume.

It wasn’t that I was lazy in attempting to fix my record player, I just have little confidence in my ability to fix anything. This is a silly notion since I am not a complete idiot and gain practical knowledge with my increasing years, Somehow, one of the two speaker wires in my left speaker had gotten wrapped up around a metal piece in the middle of where you hook the two wires. It must have been shorting out the whole system whenever I turned it on which is why it would play music for an instant then cut out. I rewound the wire, it fired right up and am proud. This song always pleases, although I’ve shared it before. It really enhanced my bacon cooking yesterday morning. I don’t know where I got it. It’s case is all messed up but it plays well so i assume it was a yard sale. I didn’t touch this record for years and now have it in heavy rotation.

Continue reading

School’s Out

Summer vacation is nearly upon us so this is an obvious choice from an obviously awesome movie. Alice Cooper must have gotten as much a second wind with the young folks from this as he did with Wayne’s World.  I can only imagine the brawls that would ensure if any high schools tried to do this to my students. This is easily one of my favorite movies ever. If you haven’t seen this gem, it’d be a lot cooler if you did.

Since my brother and I are both educators, his time of teaching is done and mine is right at the doorstep. It has been an incredibly stressful few months with the new job keeping me on point all of the time and gigs for the band racking up for the summer. My hard work will hopefully pay off with a full time time job for next year as I wait for call backs on interviews and budgets to be passed. I look forward to finally being able to slow down and enjoy the beauty of my home state in the late spring.  I will have a long three day weekend before I hop back into landscaping which will probably be a welcome change after spending so much time in a small classroom with a bunch of overstimulated 14 year olds. I’ll be outside cruising the old beat and crossing my fingers for quality radio. Do you remember the last days of school?

This perfectly describes the level of  activity my brother and I have been experiencing the last weeks. It does in fact feel like I’m going faster than a roller coaster but I am becoming strangely calm about it. I need to write more for this blog and I’m still waiting for that love to come my way, however,  everything else is becoming easier to handle. This is a cool track and it sounds like someone is clapping to keep time. Buddy couldn’t read music and didn’t know chords  yet still came up with some of the cooler pop songs of the century. What a cool dude.

I really wish I could feel some of the euphoria of a looming summer vacation that you felt as a teenager and maybe even in the early years of college when you didn’t have to get a serious job for the summer. I can almost grasp it in my nearly 28 year-old self-conscious, from seeing and talking to different middle school kids on a daily basis, that feeling that you have a seemingly endless amount of time to do whatever you want until the cruel fall when you are herded back to the dreaded temples of public education.

A very small minority of the students plan to get jobs while most intend to ride their bikes, go swimming, dub around wherever they are tolerated and even not leave their air conditioned rooms at all summer to overdose on video games or Netflix. The complete absence of responsibility and an enforced schedule with periodic sunshine. A whole summer to be lazy.

Im still listening to a lot of progressive rock, especially this band who I never really got into until the last two years. They seriously rock. Jon Lord’s non-traditional Hammond B-3 work coupled with Ritchie Blackmore’s ridiculous guitar picking just straight up melt my face. Teamed with one of the top rhythm sections in the rock world in the form of Roger Glover on bass and Ian Paice in the second incantation of this band, they dominated the live shows of the early 7o’s when giants like Led Zeppelin were also roaming the earth. I have the Made in Japan vinyl and I often play it so loud that it spooks my golden retriever Remy into running upstairs to retreat the aural onslaught.

But I cannot fully imagine the feeling of planning to do nothing at all for three months. I know I have a predilection for procrastination and I definitely wasted a lot of time in my adolescence playing Nintendo 64 and watching hours of stupid horror movies, but as an older man with numerous hobbies and responsibilities, I truly can’t fathom the notion. As much as I enjoy being productive at this point, I’m kind of jealous. I had one student tell me that he was just going to ride his scooter around the trailer park he lived in and “be a gangsta”.  He’s a student from another classroom that has some special  needs and is generally a very nice young man. I’m not sure what this exactly means in reference to what he will actually be doing but I instantly thought of this song.

The best use of this jam was clearly in Office Space and I wish it wasn’t such a profanity laden song with such angry lyrics because the kid would love the beats. He and I have occasionally had little dance offs to school when my students play rap and he always gets a big kick out of seeing me dance like a fool. 

I do remember one summer, probably after junior year when I was a houseman at a hotel 30 minutes from my house, when I had just gotten the Zep record In Through the Outdoor. This album was the one where the bassist John Paul Johns really took the reins because Jimmy Page was pretty bad into heroin and not contributing much. Thus, it sounds far different from any other Zeppelin album and after listening to the first six albums an infinite amount of times, I went through a brief period where I thought this album rocked. It’s not my favorite now but I always associate it with this girl I thought I was in love with who drove Subaru Justy with a cd player and the end of the school year. Specifically, this song.

They don’t make Justys anymore and for good reason. It was like an oversized clown car with go-kart tires and a completely floppy frame that would surely crunch into a square if it ever got into an accident. I do love Subarus though and drive a multi-colored 1999 Impreza currently. Oh yeah, “In the Evening” is still a great jam.

Things never worked out with the Justy chick and I think this was the last summer I really got the feeling I described above of just having this huge block of time where nothing was expected of you. I do really like playing bass with the band, growing my own vegetables, and writing this blog. I need to be constantly busy to keep my  mind occupied. Maybe it’s the fact that I am now within two years of being thirty that makes wistful for the irrevocable feeling of c0mplete freedom to do whatever for two and half months. I don’t want to go back to those days but I’d like to experience that emotion even just for a moment.

This was the end of the sophomore year of college exit song, one we listened to endlessly. This was the semester I hooked up with the girl I’d end up living with for two years and dating for the rest of college and all of grad school. Again, I don’t want to go back to these days and the song brings a positive memory of a wide future open before me. I still have that now, it’s just a different view than it was then. I just found this version and it has my favorite guitar player Derek Trucks tearing it up along the legit Warren Haynes. This song almost gives me the freedom feeling….for six minutes and five seconds.

Spring Sunday Morning: A Quick One

It’s too bad Ray wasn’t from Maine originally because then I could say he was our greatest musical export ever. Granted, there a few other really good bands to come out of my beloved home state, but Ray is just awesome in everyway from his blue eyed soulful voice to the super tasty production. This a Sunday morning staple for me right now.

It has been a crazy couple of months. Between things with the band getting way more busy, my new job, my old jobs, fixing the old homestead up for spring and trying to expand my social scene, I am pretty scattered right now. Granted, I have a pension for procrastination which is infamous and a continual point of contention with my brother so I am trying harder to write stuff more regularly amongst the chaos of my life. I know the Elder J is also  incredibly busy so he doesn’t notice my slackery as much which actually works against me because the guilt I feel when he give me shit actually forces me to write more.  I am sure he is not sitting around waiting for me to post stuff as he tries to move his growing family into a new home and all the other crazy stuff in his life, but I thought of this song anyway.

Love the Kinks and this song is so classic of that sound in the mid 60’s. I someday want to write a series of posts of why bands like The Kinks never got as big as the Beatles when they could of or a good one too would be how come Ten Years After never even approached the greatness of Led Zeppelin. More on that later.

I had my first day off in roughly two weeks yesterday and I spent much of it mowing my lawn and clearing out beds for my vegetables which I need to plant next weekend. I woke up painfully early after going out and seeing my lead guitar player’s sister play a songwriter’s round gig at a way too classy for me bar in the largest city of my homestate in Portland, Maine. The music was sick and the beer was expensive but good so I really relished the first sip of the West Coast IPA I ordered as soon as I could get to the bar.

Like five minutes later, in walks a school superviser and his wife in a completely out there coincidence. I guess all of our principals hang out at this specific spot so I did what I thought was necessary and got them a round. It turned into a great networking scene and I ended up being out later than I expected yet still woke up on teacher time at roughly 5:30 am. I realize I was blowing off steam from two weeks of stress, but it felt pretty whack.

Probably self explanatory.

Our first big show of the season is next Saturday afternoon. I am pretty excited since it is an afternoon show to raise money for breast cancer. It’s a bike run that has a bunch of motorcyclists pay to ride between a few different locations before meeting up at the end to eat food, have a beer, and watch our band play some tunes. A bunch of people who would never come to a show at night because of familial obligations, puritanical values or an early bed time. It will hopefully raise some more money for a good cause while introducing a bunch of my friends and acquaintances to my band. The whole biker thing is not new to us as a band, I just hope it doesn’t scare anyone who is not so familiar like my teen age cousins. Lastly, I think we can all support breasts and the saving of them.

I could not stop singing this song yesterday and the Saturday before in unison with a dude I met at my old job of banquet serving/bartending whose name is Levon and he is from South Carolina. This guy was quite a bit older than me but busted ass carrying trays while telling me some hilarous stories about living down south.

Chicago is actually an incredibly good band which is why we will end out this post with a double shot. I always saw them as this cheeey band but now I can’t really see why I would ever think this. Ok some of it is a little sharp in the cheese department, but come on, this jam right here is gold. The piano make me think of Carole King and the horn section is like funky Phil Spector production. I guess they are only behind the Beach Boys in American bands in most charting singles and albums which is a brand new fact for me. They still tour and apparently are not bad. The former lead singer/guitarist Terry Kath shot himself in the head accidentily in 1978 playing Russian Roulette with a semi automatic pistol. The man can wail but seriously, what is the thought process there? Clearly he did not grow up around firearms.

This  is the late Terry Kath tearing it apart on an extended solo which sounds like it’s got a bunch of wah-wah pedal on it which is never a bad thing for me, as much as it annoys so many others. I have to attend an adult chorus concert tonight, do you think I have any chance of hearing this bad boy getting performed?

So now it is Sunday morning and I am going to finish writing this, maybe do a little fishing before attending my mother’s adult chorus concert at three and then being home in time for band practice at six which will hopefully end by nine so I can see the new Game of Thrones episode or at least finish watching the episode from last week that I still haven’t finished. Wore me out just writing that sentence but I ultimately feel blessed that I have so many things going on that I am interested in and passionate about. I know a lot of people who waste a lot of their time from my outsider’s perspective and one day we all figure out that time is finite and you better spend it well. So on that note, spend a solid few minutes listening to this amazing cover of a an amazing song and contemplate.

Obviously really into Ray right now, again. He’s the man.

Tame Impala: There’s one in my Yard

I have already broken my commandment of writing a long post and a short post each week, but it’s not due hardly at all to procrastination. In fact, I only recently got a real job where I have to be consistently engaged and no choice but to show up everyday, but I am sure the Elder is still sour with me as he should be. I will get into the details of my new job later since I think I could write volume on it at this point. Instead, check out this song that I know my brother mentioned at some point and I heard last night on a commercial.

This song, by Tame Impala, is badass. It’s like a dirty sounding T. Rex with all the fuzz and buzz one could want from a seriously righteous sounding garage band. I had to applaud the band for making the song and my brother for catching some thing cool before me. I can’t even remember what I was doing because I don’t know what the commercial was for.

Luckily, I heard the same song the next day on the weekly Psychedelic Breakfast on the classic rock station that I listen to every single Saturday morning even if I am up the whole night prior. True story is that the only thing that keeps me from listening to this show is geographical and apparently one can listen to it online so even if I am out of the state, I can still jam to this amazing set of music.

Naturally, they have a song called “Led Zeppelin” which almost sounds like a psychedelic version of one of that huge band’s song but with like a techno backbeat. Pretty cool.

After hearing the song and then getting the name from the DJ, I immediately remembered my brother talking about the band. These Australians describe themselves as a psychedelic band so it’s excellent I heard them on the aforementioned show. The song above grabbed my attention because of the name and ended up being very cool.  I have been scanning through their songs on the YouTubes and find them to be consistently awesome. They have this classic late 60’s, early 70’s feel with some sick riffs and the psychdelia of middle-era Beatles and early Pink Floyd but with more cohesive songs. Clearly, there’s a little prog rock in there too which I obviously love. Nothing insane for guitar solos so far, but give me some time!

After numerous mentions of the word Apocalypse, I still can’t spell with the word without spell check.  

To wrap up what is supposed to be a short post, I do in fact have a tame Chevy Impala in my backyard. Over two years after his passing, my father’s P.O.S  sedan with over two hundo on the engine still remains in the vacant spot where I should have heirloom tomatoes or some shit growing.  I finally have gotten the paperwork and enthusiasm to get rid of it and hope to sell it within the month and clear up the garden space and my mind because I know the old man would want it gone if it wasn’t running. I need to reboot my iTunes account and buy the whole album by Tame Impala and figure out more songs that rock while doing my spring clean up. This one definitely sounds like the Beatles.

This sounds so much like “I’m only Sleeping”.

This sounds to me a lot like the Revolver era of the Beatles that I probably like more than any other era and a heavier dose of psychedelia then they were into at the time.  This song, with the title of “Feels like we are going backwards” makes me think about my new job in education and almost every aspect of my life right now but I feel alright about it. Sometimes life does push you backwards which really just prompts me to push a little harder and try to think of how to do things differently. Spring is here and the glass is half full so let’s get on it!

Year in Review

It has been a very weird year, both globally and personally. We are several days past the supposed Mayan apocalypse and everything appears to be normal. Christmas parties and the accompanying songs are done and we have the one big blast of New Year’s Eve before we settle into the doldrums of winter, depending on where you live.

It has been ups and downs all around from my love life to the price of fuel. I started a band, I planted a garden, I hung out with some different girls, I did a bunch of fishing, I experienced my first earthquake and I finally got my own iPod. I was sort of apathetic towards everything after the holidays and the Elder J kept giving me shit about not posting anything so the obvious choice was a year in review. I always miss things when I try to be retrospective but such is life. Here it comes.

1. Hank Jr.

Continue reading

Procrastination Playlist

I am a terrible procrastinator and this blog seems to be the most affected by my crippling ailment (and much to my brother’s chagrin). I can’t tell you how often I get a text that simply says “posting soon?” from the Elder J. I know he just wants our blog to succeed and I know we started this blog to stay better in touch while having an intellectual project to work on as team, but I often want to text back and say something witty like “how about I post my foot up your ass?”

Continue reading

Watch my Garden Grow

In a post not-too-long ago, my brother compiled a song-list for gardening. I think a lot of us have such informal sound tracks—sometimes we make them on purpose with iTunes playlists, or, in the old days, a mix-tape. Music is so elemental and visceral that it easily cleaves to our daily lives; in addition, our steady modern diet of television and movies all set to finely selected soundtracks conditions us to hear musical accompaniment for everything.

Or something like that.

The reason my brother’s post is worth going back to (other than the fact that it is fascinating and his list is pretty great) is also connected to what music does for us and to us: it makes us remember. But the kind of memory my brother talked about doesn’t come from music alone, it comes from working the land where my father put his hands, from turning the soil my father toiled over, and from tending the plants my father left behind him.

See, my post is about how my brother’s relationship to the land my father left us is a metaphor for his grief and the way he is honoring my father’s memory. My gardening music and my abandonment of the land is equally metaphorical. We have both been set adrift by our grief; our reactions have trapped us in turn. I’ll have a list of gardening music too.

Song 1: Rogue Wave: “Publish My Love”—a song I could not get enough of when I first got my own property. I can still recall pulling weeds in the rain with my headphones tucked under a hooded sweatshirt.

Let’s start with something unnerving. A few months before my father died, he gave a group of books to his only grandchild at the time, my daughter. Among them was a book entitled The Farmer, perhaps selected in remembrance of a book I loved when I was a toddler called Farmer Jones. Inside the book, my father wrote “You come from farmers. And always remember—you sow what you reap. Sow what you reap.”

What my father wrote

I didn’t find this epigraph until my father was a year gone. And when I did, I immediately started weeping. Never mind that we have long been crap farmers or that my father mysteriously  (or mistakenly) reversed the phrase “reap what you sow”. All I could think of was what he was thinking when he wrote that less than two months before he died. Did he have regrets? Did he know more than we did?

Song 2: Feist, “Mushaboom”—another song that I brought with me from NYC. I always loved the simple life evoked by the singer, the small house, children, the quiet. My wife and I bought and gutted a foreclosed house and did everything we could together from painting, to tile, to refinishing cabinets. The outside was mine alone.

My father and mother bought several acres of mixed woods—white pine, some scotch pine, birches in the front, a sprinkling of old apple trees, lilac bushes and some poplars near the road—and spent years taming it and creating a lawn. While he left most of the trees, my father was tireless in clearing scrub and fashioning gardens at my mother’s whims. His creations weren’t perfect, but they absorbed his sweat, his energy, his life.

When I was young, my father and mother grew vegetables in the back yard of our old house.  I still remember picking green beans from the garden and shelling peas. To this day I cannot snap into a fresh green bean without remembering the walk up the hill, the smell of the old Irish setter, and the cold, dark colors of my family’s first home.

Song 3: John Denver’s rendition of “The Garden Song”. I think I learned this song from my mother; I know I sang it in kindergarten and I am pretty sure my father knew the words. I often sing the first few lines for my children now. My eyes never fail to water.

I live in one of those ridiculous suburbs that have green lawn rules and where the local HOA can fine you if your yard is not up to community standards. The threat of fines wasn’t what made me want to make my yard look good, however.  Every time I looked at my lawn, I could hear my father telling me to take pride in what I owned. I knew how to plant, water, weed, prune, build stone walls, care for trees, prepare garden beds from scratch—I knew all these things because I had done them with my father.

Even during the summer my daughter was born, I was out in triple-digit temperatures mowing, edging, weeding and watering my lawn because I knew when my father came to visit he’d tell me where I needed to re-seed, where I needed to aerate, because he’d tell me to take pride in what I own. Now, let me be clear, even if I had let it all go to weeds, my father would merely make a joke of it. But he took yardwork so seriously that I couldn’t imagine not doing so.

Song 4: Bon Iver, “Skinny Love”—in my last year of serious yardwork, I fell in love with this song. It’s haunting falsetto vocals, and distancing, alienating feel, almost made me feel cool under the hot sun.

The summer after my father died was the driest in generations. It cost more to water the lawn than it did to pay HOA fines. But this is not why I stopped working on the yard. I couldn’t handle it. When the lawnmower wouldn’t work, I fixed it the way my father would; when the soil needed aeration, I tried to do it myself and failed, unlike my father. Every time I put on the gardening shoes and looked at the dry dirt edged with green and browns that only comes from long afternoons in the garden, I thought of those afternoons I spent as a child watching my father in the yard and then, later, helping him.

And I couldn’t handle it. I selfishly thought of all the hours he spent in the yard and not with his children. Then, I thought of all the energy he expelled for something that suddenly seemed to superficial and silly. I told my wife that I had too much work to do; I told my neighbors that it was unethical to water in a drought; I told myself I had to spend more time with my daughter before a new child arrived.

But the truth was, I think I only worked on my yard because I wanted my father to be proud of me.

And now? My brother lightly (and not so lightly) mocks me because I have hired someone to do it for me. We live in a different house in another community with an evil HOA and I refuse even to buy a lawnmower. Unlike my father, I don’t get any pleasure from working this land.It is dry, it is barren, and the work seems a performance for others, not a search for a deeper understanding of self. Even though I own it, I feel like a temporary visitor. I know I will sell this property; I will never leave it to my children.

This place, and this world, I am just passing through. I cannot bear to garden here, because every plant that dies and every one that blooms reminds me of what is coming and what has gone. I cannot garden anymore, for now, because my father’s voice still echoes.

Sow what you reap?

Song 5: Micah P. Hinson “Yard of Blonde Girls”—imagine if people grew like flowers? This song has one of the best ‘builds’ of any song I have heard in a while. Hinson knows his crescendo.

My brother tends the land my father works and it is both a statement of his love for my parents and a metaphor for how we tend the memory of those we lose. He tries to keep everything my father planted, but time changes it—what he can, he makes better; what he cannot improve, he casts aside.

I ignore the land I own because my father never touched it. I tend his memories elsewhere, trying like my brother to cast aside what is of no use, and to bring to health whatever my father planted—my brother, myself, my sister, my children.

Inch by inch, row by row. My father made his garden grow.