Note: my phone just showed me this image from exactly 2 years ago and in that moment I thought of all the time that has passed since we hung the door on the little greenhouse, planted greens and flowers, and went on our lives…
On Monday, John finished constructing the door to the greenhouse and we ceremoniously fit it into its hinges. It opens and closes! The roof vent does the same! Yesterday was a shopping day down the Coast so we didn’t do any work on it but bolts were purchased to finish off the base (we were short a few) and I bought a thermometer for the wall. When we came up the driveway after our swim this morning, I saw the greenhouse standing in its place, looking exactly as I’d hoped it would look. I have to confess there were moments when I doubted we’d get to this point. We didn’t mean to put it together ourselves, though our younger selves would certainly have rolled up their sleeves and got to work, not on a kit (which is what we bought) but on something built from wood and old windows and funky as anything. Given our present circumstances—one of us with a post-surgical injury; the other one more of a helper than a builder—we ordered the kit because someone we know said he’d come to help us with it. But then he wasn’t available. The kit sat in the carport and I remember I said, Oh, come on. We can do it. There’s no rush. We’ll do it slowly. It’s not that we can’t do this stuff. It’s more that it’s difficult for John to move around on uneven ground because of balance (that foot!) but once he’s in place, with a chair handy, he’s fine. He has good spatial sense and can decipher plans and instructions. I’m sort of hopeless at that but I’m strong.
And slowly it was. There was the base to consider. The place we had in mind is on a slope behind our house. We’d need to work out a way to build up three sides against the top one. Rock! And lots of it. I can lift 50 or 60 pounds reasonably easily and the biggest rocks were not easy to lift. I’d trundle 4 of them at a time up in the wheelbarrow (up!) and we’d fit them into the frame we’d built of 4×4 (again, that had to be lugged up to the site and it was waterlogged so very heavy; we needed to square that frame and level it and then wait a day and level it again) on posts set on concrete pavers. So rock, then smaller rock to wedge into the gaps between the bigger ones. Once that was done, then we had to fill the inner part with sand. Luckily we also needed to have work done on our driveway so the guy who came to do that brought sand and used his small excavator to carry buckets of it to dump in the base. Then pavers. There’s a space of 9″ along one side and end and the idea was to fill that space with beach stones. Yesterday I gathered some bags of those at Trail Bay and put a few down last night, just to see. Today I’ll do the rest.
That 2″x2″ wooden brace you see in the top photograph (there’s one on the long wall too) will come off and permanent corner braces will keep the post and beam solid. John will build proper steps to the door, wide ones, with room for a potted tree or two. I intend to bring one of my big Chinese pots to sit on the ground by the steps, with water in it for frogs. And a waterbarrel at the other corner to take rain from the little gutters (you can’t really see them but they’re there) for watering inside.
But right now? We have some planks under the house, wild-edge cedar from a tree that came down many years ago and that we had milled (there’s a passage about it in Mnemonic), using some of the lumber for various projects. I’ll drag them out. John’s going to make a bench for one of the long walls, to put seedling trays on, and we have some other shelving units to find room for. Maybe by the weekend I’ll be bringing out my little olive trees and other slightly tender plants for their new home. Last night I put some tubs of greens I’d begun elsewhere—arugula and mesclun—and they looked very happy this morning. T
The news is terrible. New variants, coups, the worst of human nature coming to the surface in ways I’d thought we’d left behind. I think of Du Fu:
The country is broken, though hills and rivers remain,
In the city in spring, grass and trees are thick.
Moved by the moment, a flower’s splashed with tears,
Mourning parting, a bird startles the heart.
The beacon fires have joined for three months now,
Family letters are worth ten thousand pieces.
I scratch my head, its white hairs growing thinner,
And barely able now to hold a hairpin.*
The country may be broken, though hopefully not irreparably so. I’ll grow greens and lay beach stones in sand to cobble together new possibilities here at home.
*translation by David Hinton