November Chores and Pleasures

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IT’S ALMOST HERE. Winter, I mean. The clocks set themselves back last night while we slept. Remember going around the house, taking clocks off walls and down from shelves and manually resetting them? Another thing to be nostalgic about. I woke up here in my Long Island cottage and the cable box, computer, and iPhone had all take care of themselves. All I had to do was reset the stove. It’s nice to be up early, with the golden light of morning creeping through the woods…even though it’s “really” not that early.

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Yesterday I built a compost bin out of cinderblocks and I’m quite unreasonably proud of the thing. Had been Googling “mulch with whole oak leaves,” thinking I might just rake them off the paths and lawn and into the beds and woods and have done with it. I’m in the middle of what amounts to an oak forest, and there are a lot more leaves to come. Meanwhile, my garden helper hasn’t shown up in weeks, not even to collect the money I owe him. He must be busy raking other people’s lawns.

I’d started a leaf pile next to my kitchen-scraps pile, but it was growing unmanageably large and I wondered how I might contain it. Wire mesh and metal stakes? I looked in the cellar to see what I had: nothing. Then I remembered the pile of cement blocks stashed under a large evergreen at the back of the property. They were too heavy to throw away and I thought they might come in handy someday for building a retaining wall, a foundation, a …compost bin? OK, it’s not a thing of great beauty, but it does the job. I would have made it higher but I ran out of blocks. Anyway, I got great satisfaction re-purposing something that was there already.

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I’m out in the country for a few weeks, all things being equal. Naturally, I have a long list of garden chores. Plant ‘minor’ (small) bulbs in the blank space under the magnolia. Wrap burlap around deer-vulnerable and winter-burn-prone shrubs (that’s a big job, to be delayed until I’m feeling particularly energetic). Keep watering and spraying (anti-deer). Spread compost in the perennial beds. Rake, rake, rake.

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There’s a can of sunflower yellow Rust-o-leum paint at the ready for this Dada-esque tractor seat, found in the house when I bought it 2-1/2 years ago. Another long-postponed project, but just the thing for a quiet fall evening in the country, listening to Philip Glass or Jagjit Singh, pot of ridiculously nutritious soup bubbling away on the stove…

I’m trying to savor the things I have accomplished here in this garden, so easily forgotten once they’re under control. The wisteria that once had a choke-hold on everything has been vanquished. The agepodium several landscape contractors wanted to Round-Up into submission has largely disappeared, through patient hand-weeding. The backyard, once impenetrable, now an open expanse. And many more.

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A dear longtime friend of mine is very ill, making me acutely aware of life’s little pleasures. I’ve been going to yoga at KamaDeva in East Hampton; yesterday’s class ended with this prayer, which I’m moved to share in this month of Thanksgiving. (Don’t read on if you’re not a fan of this sort of thing. I am.)

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Love before me
Love behind me
Love at my left
Love at my right
Love above me
Love below me
Love unto me
Love in my
surroundings
Love to all
Love to the Universe

Peace before me
Peace behind me
Peace at my left
Peace at my right
Peace above me
Peace below me
Peace unto me
Peace in my
surroundings
Peace to all
Peace to the Universe

Light before me
Light behind me
Light at my left
Light at my right
Light above me
Light below me
Light unto me
Light in my
surroundings
Light to all
Light to the Universe