Wednesday, April 20, 2011


In a recent post, Co-Creation with the Landbase Requires Deep Attention Hecate asked:

How deep is your attention to your landbase? How deep is your landbase's attention to you? Who's leading the dance?

I read her post and I thought, well, I've been known to pick up trash along the side of the road, down the street from me in that patch of woods; I've also climbed down into the local mill stream and uprooted a purple loosestrife or two, which is a horribly invasive species in these parts, and if left to its own would swath the entire little river in purple and crowd out every last one of the native plants. I've done that several times, actually; I don't know that I will ever eradicate it, but dammit I'm going to slow it down as much as I possibly can.

And I thought, well, that's something I guess. Not much, and not as much as I'd like to do, but something.

And then I realized:

Oh. This yard.

I have mentioned this before, but let me explain it again: my father was a compulsive hoarder. He was also a mechanic, and worked on old Volkswagens from a garage on the property. He was here, on this land, in this house, since 1960.

For forty-odd years he not only didn't throw much of anything away, he actively went out looking for junk and brought it home.

This yard was, and this is no exaggeration, a junkyard. In the 90s, when it was at its worst, there were, and I am not making this number up, seventy-eight junk cars on the property. An acre and a half sized piece of residential property.

Seriously, you won't believe it (unless you are unfortunate enough to be related to a hoarder yourself) unless you see it. So I'm going to direct you to a video my sister shot back in 1992 (I tried to post it here but got an error, so I have to send you there). It's a little shaky, be forewarned, but it's here, over at my other blog, Tetanus Burger.

We have been cleaning all that up.

We have been working on it for ten years now, the last five without my father, as he had a stroke in 2006 and has been in a nursing home since. And believe me, that fact has made it much easier. It was very difficult, if not impossible, to throw anything away with my father still here. This is how hoarders are, if you don't know.

Lately, beginning last spring, we've been making a real push to get it done. We are, as of last Friday, down to nineteen junk cars. Looking at the video, and the pictures my sister took from back then, I'd say we're about three quarters of the way through it all, if not further.

Now that blog, though I am of course still a Pagan while writing it, doesn't much mention that aspect of things. Mostly because I am leery of coming out to an audience that may not be so friendly; but also because it's not much to do with anything, really.

But here I can talk about my relationship with my landbase in spiritual terms. About this poor patch of abused ground, this land that I know has had oil, gas, parts cleaner, brake fluid, Godsknow what poisons spilled on it, that has been burdened with so much junk, so many piles of rotting lumber, an old rusted farm tractor, old oil tanks, lawnmowers, plastic tubs and refrigerator drawers of parts, bolts, nuts, screws—I wonder, completely seriously, if there were actually a million bolts and screws and nails here at one point—old doors, windows, salvaged boards with I'm quite sure lead paint on them, car seats, fenders, car doors, transmissions, engines sitting out in the rain, fifty-five gallon drums of broken glass, piles and piles and piles of tires, even an old giant rubber life raft; but above all iron, so much iron. We have, since we've been keeping track, removed thirteen tons of iron from this yard, and there was more before that that we don't have receipts for. We are planning on bringing some more to the scrapyard on Friday, in fact.

Raking up a section of newly-clean yard the other day over and over again we would rake away the leaves and find bits and pieces of junk, little car parts, bent rusty wire, just plain hunks of rust, and I know plenty more is buried in the dirt that has accumulated with the years. I have no idea how deep it goes down; forty years, I guess. I don't know that it will ever really be clean here.

I have not thought of all this, this huge undertaking, this burden I have inherited unwillingly, as a spiritual thing, as a way to make things right, to heal this land, well, not consciously, anyway. It has just been this horrible thing I have no choice about doing. I have not even, really, seen it as claiming space, claiming my own power, but both those things, healing and claiming power, are exactly what it is. In other words: it is a deep, deep magic that I am doing. It is Work, and a working, though I go into this with no conscious intent except to get it clean. I have not really even thought about what I want to do with this place when it is clean. Because I cannot even imagine it. It is just on the edge of overwhelming, though it hasn't claimed me yet, and so I have little space to do anything except simply act.

So I can't honestly say how much attention, never mind deep attention, I have been paying. I mean, it's true, I can tell you when the goldenrod will bloom in that patch behind the vegetable garden, around the disembodied front axle assembly from an old Citroen DS; and I can tell you that the locust and the catalpa are famously late to come into leaf, and since they are a good part of the trees in my yard it always looks bare when other places are out; and I can tell you, also, that I have three miraculous elm trees here, one quite large and thriving up by the road. I know that the snow crocus go absolutely nuts in the front yard come late winter and that there is always a family of chimney swifts in the huge old colonial chimney.

I guess that is attention after all.

I don't know what this patch of land thinks of me. I daren't even ask, yet; I need, I think, to unburden Her, this little piece of Earth, of Gaea, before I have the right to ask anything at all of Her, before I can enter into a real relationship, a free one. At least that is how it feels. That anything blooms or grows here at all is a miracle, is undeserved grace.

So I'm not sure at this point there is any dance. The priorities are different. I cannot dance with someone with a broken leg, can I? She must be healed, first.


I am here, still thinking, still, well, Musing, on all this; it goes deep. In the meantime, here is a recipe I am limerently in love with. It's another stupidly simple one, inspired by a sale at the local supermarket of overstocked Italian stuff in jars, including sun-dried tomatoes packed in olive oil, which I had never had, and which have now made my life complete.

Zucchini with Sun-dried Tomatoes

What you do is open up the jar of tomatoes, then spoon off a teaspoon or two of the oil and put it in a good-sized frying pan on lowish medium to heat up.

Slice a zucchini up into rounds, probably a quarter to three-eighths inch thick (for those of you up in Canada, six to nine millimetres thick). Add them to the pan one layer deep (they should all fit if your zucchini isn't too big).

Pause for a moment and inhale the unbelievably gorgeous scent coming off the heated tomato-infused oil, but try not to swoon—your kitchen floor is very hard, perhaps even tile, and concussions are no fun.

You can drizzle a little more of the tomatoey oil over the top of the zucchini if you like. Flip them over somewhere in there; you'll want them browned a bit on both sides, even approaching caramelization. You kind of can't overcook these, unless they end up actually black and burnt. They ought to be quite soft all the way through.

Somewhere in there add a decent-sized spoonful of herbs. I like rosemary mortared and pestled to a powder (I'm not a fan of the little stick effect), but the more traditionally Italian tomato companions of oregano or basil would work too. Throw that in and mix a bit.

When they are getting towards done fish out about five of the tomatoes from the jar and slice them up finely. Add them to the zucchini for a bit to let it all warm up.

Then eat them, and see if you can prevent yourself from making another batch as soon as you've finished.