We had a gentle, slow-moving weekend. Some of us read a novel and watched orange leaves moving against blue sky, after the rain had stopped.
Some of us found new places to nap.
I cut up an amazing heirloom Goldman’s Italian American tomato from the garden to make what may be the last bruschettas of the season.
And enjoyed them very much.
Wolfie died on August 1st. He had been sick for several months so it was no surprise, but after living with him for 17 years I felt abruptly cut loose.
The following week I brought his ashes home in a little cardboard box with a label that read, “This is Wolfie. The companion of Estyn Hulbert.” — which I find strangely compelling. Tightly fitted inside was another box, this one made of something solid and mahogany-colored with a beveled edge at the top.
I had thought I would bury his ashes right away, but the box is still sitting on my studio desk and I can’t bring myself to spread his remains in the damp fall earth. Maybe I’ll wait until spring, when the dampness promises warmth and growth instead of dark days and freezing. Wolfie spent his final years being an old grump of a feline, so I think I’ll plant a crabapple tree over him, in honor of his crabbyness.
The household feels lopsided without him but Annabelle, Maxie, Noola and I are slowly adjusting. Extra love. Extra kindness. For all of us.
If you visit Flickr you may have seen that the Library of Congress posted some of Lewis Hine’s photographs of child labor. They’re amazing. They were taken between 1908 and 1924 but I feel like I’m right there with him, witnessing.
I thought I knew this photograph from The History of Photography by Beaumont Newhall, one of my college textbooks. But I looked it up and the book photograph is of a different girl, perhaps working at the same mill? There must have been so many mills and factories full of kids.
Little Fannie, 7 years old, 48 inches high, helps sister in Elk Mills. Her sister (in photo) said, “Yes, she he’ps me right smart. Not all day but all she can. Yes, she started with me at six this mornin’.” These two belong to a family of 19 children. 1910 November.
I love the mystery arm on the right and the chalked graffiti heads on the door. I wonder if children worked at the Ellenville Glass Works that used to operate in my village.
Manuel, the young shrimp-picker, five years old, and a mountain of child-labor oyster shells behind him. He worked last year. Understands not a word of English. Dunbar, Lopez, Dukate Company. 1911 February.
I can’t help remembering that my grandmothers were born in 1909 and 1914, respectively. Just a few years after these kids.
The garden is an overgrown tangle. Half the tomatoes sprawl un-staked on the ground with some of their fruit nibbled on by slugs and chipmunks. Powdery mildew is rampant on the summer squash and cucumber plants. The grass is tall and the edges and details are even shaggier since the push mower stopped working and I have yet to make an accurate diagnosis.
There are seven-foot-high sunflowers with weeds between their toes, bug-eaten leaves on the amaranth, zinnias past their prime, basil that is going to seed. The space left empty after harvesting the garlic has weeds encroaching and the pathways barely have any mulch showing through the crabgrass and dandelions. There are large flat insects eating the beans. I haven’t watered.
But I love it. I love it all. I love the chaos and generosity of it. I love the tall grass. I don’t care that the asparagus ferns are flopped over in an ungainly slump — they’re thriving. The whole garden is.
And the part of me that is a wild curious child is thriving too. I’m ignoring the voice of the inner perfectionist who wants me to look at the garden only with a corrective eye, counting off the problems that need fixing. Instead I’m looking with my child eyes. Seeing the garden as its true self — messy, generous, creative and unleashed. My Eden. Ungainly and glorious.