man: “Wonderful. Thanks, it’s good to know. I’ve been watering my yard like this for fifty years”. How long did you say you’ve been at this”?
younger man: “I’ve got degrees in hydroinformatics and modelling. It took a couple of years”
man: “And you’re saying I can’t water my yard”.
younger man: “That’s right. It’s a well known fact that it’s bad for the plants”.
man: “Plants don’t need water”?
younger man: “No, that’s not what I’m saying”.
younger man: “Today, even a two year old could tell you that watering in the day when it’s this hot is bad”.
man: “And on Monday’s”
younger man: “And on Monday’s”.
younger man: “Monday’s a different reason though”.
man: “The thing I’m still interested in is how long you’ve been working for the city. Since you graduated. Since you stopped studying”.
younger man: “Since I graduated? Um .. almost four years now”.
man: “So you finished your studies four years ago”.
younger man: “Yah. I’m done my studies and now I have this job”.
man: “Well, how come I can’t water”?
younger man: “Well you could actually. You could get a licensed contractor to do it. You just have to give them a call and set something up”.
man: “A Contractor”?
younger man: “A lawn care company. You know, trained professionals. They drive around in pick up trucks with little trailers on the back. You’ve probably seen them in the neighbourhood from time to time. There’s a couple of ones we work with that do most properties. They’re not hard to find. They’re like licensed practitioners and if they take on your yard, they can water any time they want. They have expertise”.
man: “I see”.
younger man: “Meanwhile you’ll have to stop watering your yard until you get that sorted out”
man: “The plants don’t like it”?
younger man: “Yah. (pause) Okay so we’re on track here, that’s good . I’m glad we could have this little talk. You have yourself a nice day now”. (exeunt)
There’s an ordonnance that says you can’t water your yard by machine unless it’s between three and five in the morning. And then only on every second day. On Mondays nobody gets to water anything. No matter how you do it.
Watering by hand, I get it. Out in the backyard after supper, get out the hose and ‘giver a few sprinkles. A quick wander round the perimeter, maybe poke under the bushes with the water and stuff while we’re at it. See how things are doin’.
It’s a far cry from having a hole drilled into your house then right back out again so it can be connected to a flexible pipe that has a watering machine on the end. Instead you’re a little organic mandelbrot on the front lawn spreading water where it’s needed and making your neighbourhood green and look good on behalf of the city and real estate prices. That’s value.
Here’s the deal though, you can go to any store you want and buy whatever attachment suits your fancy and attach it to the end of that flexible hose. Hell, you can even go digital if you want. Lot’s of these attachements make it so you don’t even have to be there. Reels and crawlers, auto-oscillating three armed sprayers, turbo pattern masters on polymer sleds. There are heavy duty brass pulsators and orbital sun-mate gear driven heads. You can bury the pipe in the ground and get a four pack of nineteen to thirty-two foot spray heads that will give you forty to three-hundred and sixty degrees of coverage.
You can go out every once and a while and see how it’s doing, maybe move it around if you want. See if the ground is squishy. Sure sign of water. You don’t really need to know what you’re doing because whatever it is you’re watching or paying attention to between April and September is bound to be interupted every couple of minutes to tell you how it should turn out. You might even enjoy getting up Sunday morning to watch a show about how to best organize your yard requirements.
The point is – you can turn that thing on and leave it. You can go to bed, go inside and watch TV, it doesn’t really matter what you’re doing. It’s pretty much foolproof with just enough necessity to make you think you’re on top of something important and rewarding. Even better if you can find an app that runs the whole show. (Now that’s something worth sharing).
The problem is – the city doesn’t want that. Not really. Well they do but they really don’t. They want their communities to look good but they’re only ‘gonna go so far.
Unrestricted people pouring water onto their yard at thousands of gallons a minute without any thought. A large chunk of it seeping off the lot and into the storm sewers along with the water from people who insist on washing their cars and hosing down their driveways and sidewalk in a ritual of sanitation. It really doesn’t look good. Not at all. So yes, if it’s dark, and between three and five on alternate mornings we’re okay. Not ‘gonna really look.
And it works ..mostly ..sort of.
The kind of properties you want watered get watered. The rest ..well let’s just say it’s not going to be brought up in conversation. The grass is undoubtably a little drier and ragged. A little thin ..mostly in lots of places in most yards. A little browned and pretty brittle, even the green stuff. Well maybe not brown actually, more like straw coloured if it were a little more golden. As it is, it’s a too tiny and bleached to really tell. Not much green in there though. That’s for certain.
But all that’s beside the point.
I was thinking about a completely different world. One where there’s this business with older men. It’s ‘kinda cool.
Most people don’t have the time to figure out the yard watering garden thing. Some people are really into it but they usually fence their properties off and out of sight so they don’t have to deal with the visual riff raff. You know, the people whose idea of a backyard resembles the space around the houses on that flat marshy stretch at the bottom of the hill out there by the something or other sideroad.
Anyway. Not everyone is buyin’ five thousand dollar charbeques and egg-smokers to put next to the outdoor couch and big screen TV. Alot of people are just trying to keep up a little scrabbled lot like you by the side of the highway.
The one where you slow down at the end of the big thick grey wire anchoring the guardrail posts to the ground and cross a gravel covered culvert to get into. There’s likely a slightly circular bare spot somewhere because they probably have a dog.
Mostly we’ve managed to get these people up off the ground once they’re in town. Limiting the amount of space these people can affect in the outside world, we’re getting pretty good at it because once they start… little things pile up. Lumber, tarps, bits of leftover machinery and the inevitable pile of dirt. We gotta’ watch it because it’s catching like a virus and you don’t want it spreading in the neighbourhood.
Worst of all it could go Eco. Ton’s of painted bark and some scraggly bushes that look an awfully lot like the ones on the edge of the vacant lot you passed on the way home. No bayberry groomed hedges that’s for sure.
Anyway, the majority of the residents seem to get it right. A tree, a little shade, a sunny spot and a small place that they can tend grass and flowers and plants.
I heard a comment the other night that I’d never heard before. An idea that most people no longer have a place to direct their nurturing, care and compassion. They may have a small animal or a few house plants, but otherwise this little patch of land is it. It’s the limited place where their soul pours out into the world and world pours back in.
But what I was thinking about was this world of older men. It would be shady. It’d have to be. And the shade would come from trees. Big ones. Lot’s of them. Trees wouldn’t be these spindly ornamental things we put in and pull out for decoration. They would be cultivated and proper residents of the neighbourhood. They would comprise the landscape that the buildings are mingled into.
Early in the morning and later in the evening, these men would come out and water their lawns and flowerbeds by hand. Out there for hours and hours, silent and content in knowing that they were part of ‘taking care’ as the sun climbs into the sky. Standing out on shaded lawns or sitting on the stoop with life swaying about them in the breeze during the best part of the day.
The part of the day where for most of their life they had always been somewhere else. Doing something else and trying hard to figure something out for somebody else. Now they can sway with the water in the cool of the morning and begin to understand what it’s like to paint or dance. Life coursing like the water through their hand to where it’s needed most. There is so much time to relax, to observe, to be calm.
They take on watering their neighbours’ yard. Not because it’s a career choice but because it’s calming. We discover it’s good to have these men in our midst. And after a time they begin to dispense wisdom along with the water. Easy words like ‘how’s it going?’ or ‘good to see you’. Simple things or maybe just a tip of the hat.
Sometimes their advice is more selective along the lines of ‘I don’t think any amount of watering is ‘gonna bring that back’. They know because they’ve seen it and they’d like you to know while you still have time.
It doesn’t need to be much more than that. Just a little shove that gets you away from the dock before you slip your paddle into the water. A growing feeling for life and change. Slow, gentle, constant and always in motion. A way they can adapt to a world where they aren’t the main feature. And finally, their souls can learn how to blend in.
(for pat landon)
I came across this in one of my recent readings. It went on to state that art is a way of exploring, creation, reflection and searching that continues day in and day out. Most of what we make being unusable. And a sizeable amount of our efforts ending in failures if we are truly and deeply involved.
“Making a lot of beautiful things that are like a lot of other beautiful things is manufacturing, not art.
Our mind is a wilderness. As artists, we are explorers along the frontier. We run into dead ends, box canyons, sheer walled cliffs. The vein being mined runs out. Sand runs through our fingers after drilling for water. Hacking at weeds reveals only stone. Abandoned, woozy and sweating under the sun, not even the vultures will circle. We continue to place one foot in front of the other but never relent. Understanding the importance of staying on this path that appears before us; we cross the wasteland and sooner or later enter a paradise that is ours alone.¹
The path of an artist, a warrior, of life – it’s much the same.
Recent work over the past several months has taken me in many directions. Much of it has been spent re-visioning, imagining, and visiting ideas that I had previously left off for reasons of time, focus and other pressing needs. Over time, original impressions have had time to mix with the mulch of daily life. Many of them fermenting and decomposing until ultimately they have provided a rich medium for lush new growth.
Ongoing reading on contemplative enquiry and Goethe’s approach to the world has renewed a long held interest in the history of pigments, the foundations of how we perceive and understand colour and a renewed interest in painting, watercolour and visual comprehension.
Throughout this I have been revisiting work by Ivan Illich on the conceptual nature of the world we live in and it’s relationship to language, body and our human nature. Taking a much harder look at the literate world as we slide into a post-literate future; the nature of ‘stuff‘ and how it enters into our imagination, behaviour and belief and the social structures we use to support it all.
I have taken to shooting pictures almost exclusively with my phone at the moment. It intrigues me how our phones have managed to conquer and command massive parts of our lives and former equipment, devices and tools in an iron fisted grip as strong as that of the Roman Church at the height of it’s power. A catholic tool that mediates, interprets and binds all experience to it. It’s caused me to poke about in pre-history and the period before the end of the 12th century in a very disjointed and inexplicable way.
My current focus is more on apprehension and comprehension than the technical pursuit of ultimate sharpness at the moment, although I still have the gut feeling that a kind of hyper-realism is necessary for our time. All this underpinned with the sound of Indian Classical and vernacular Brazilian music
A thorough sojourn in the wider social experience of our age has convinced me to return to writing more thoughtfully and trying to comb apart some of these strands over the next couple of months as I return to this blog. Never a dull moment, it’s great to be back.
¹ paraphrased from a reading on art by Deng Ming Dao
I’ve been really blessed this past week to make my way through a good portion of Naná Vasconcelos’ discography as I worked on rebuilding one of two djembes I picked up recently.
And while I’d like to share all the details including how I got here from my last post ..it’s probably not worth it and better to just jump in mid-stream.
This is actually the smaller of the two. Never having skinned a drum before, and certainly not from scratch, I risked being in over my head but at least I could limit how deep.
I want to personally thank Leo at tree frog percussion for providing valuable information along with the replacement goatskins and cord I purchased. His passion and dedication to building high quality percussion instruments is outstanding.
If you want to take a course on building your own drum from scratch, percussion classes or purchase a handmade instrument, I would highly recommend him.
If you’ve never listened to Brazilian musicians, and in particular the genius of Naná Vasoncelos – here are links to one of his concerts with another Brazilian great Yamandu Costa.
In the end, the real value of a photograph is as a document. Everything else is window dressing.
I’m not sure where I first heard this, but I’ve had alot of time to think about it over the years and I would have to agree. No matter what. Cropped, clipped, mangled, or manipulated, photographs are ultimately a very personal document. Sometimes it can shed light on our condition and sometimes it’s just a picture.
There’s something special about the whole field of before and after photos that just never gets old. I never tire of stumbling across the welcome surprise of someone who took the time to properly document some change. It never fails to put a smile on my face.
And althought these shots are not great, they’re my current contribution. The before from the 14th of February and the after from the nite before last.
A day later the room is complete and awaiting it’s final ‘beauty’ shot.
It’s also the reason I haven’t been posting. This is only one of at least five rooms to undergo this kind of transformation in the last month. Our house goes on the market in a couple of days and between the packing, remodelling and organization, there is precious little time for much else.
Things still speeding along at a wicked pace with little time for a deep breath let alone pictures.
Danny Gatton is one of my favourite guitarists and sums it up best with this quick little piece.
I owe a personal favour to Roy Buchanon in mentioning him lest he ever again be forgotten. His influence on guitarists like Danny, Vince Gill, Jeff Beck, Jimi Hendricks, and Gerry Garcia is legendary and he changed the course music forever. Personally, he was the first musician to shake my world in a way no other did.
There is too much I’d like to say about guitarists at the moment and instead leave you with a little piece from Roy to carry you through the weekend.