Monday, March 29, 2010

Busting Sod

Every March I try to get outside to bust sod. The weather in March is at its most temperamental—all the seasons can happen in one month—snow, sleet, rain, high winds, sunshine. This Friday it’s supposed to be 70 degrees but snow threatens the week after. Not that the weather isn’t temperamental all year round in Buffalo.

The year I moved here, the snow fall reached 7 ft in 2 days. I complained to my mother who was in Seattle at the time. She said, “The weather is the wonder there and if you don’t start appreciating it, you best move.” Since she’s moved here, I’ve repeated this to her so often, she wishes she never said it.

But she was right.

And from that perspective, March is truly the most wondrous month of all.

So far I’ve only gotten one day to bust sod. I’m planning on building a raised vegetable garden. My pumpkins last year, grew over the fence into my neighbor’s backyard. Vegetation grows in abundance here. This year, I want to plant a Three Sister’s Garden—beans, squash, and corn.

Our backyard is typical for South Buffalo, a long rectangle, sunken in the middle, two chain link fences and ol’ rickety wooden one, and a blacktop driveway leads to a small garage. Dave and my father often sit in the back and reminisce about their South Buffalo boyhoods when they ran the fence line hopping from garage to garage, squirreling their way through the neighborhood. There’s a 35 year age difference between them yet it’s the same reminiscence. I don’t want them to put ideas into my son Sam’s head.

Last week, Sam and I began to bust the sod in the backyard or rather I busted up the sod and he collected worms. Busting sod is simple. I dig into the recently thawed, moist ground with a shovel; unearth the matt of grass along with a hunk of dirt. I shake the dirt from the roots, toss the grass away and then break up the clumps of loam. I plow my fingers through the loose soil and plop the worms into the palm of Sam’s waiting hand. Later we’ll sit in the kitchen and watch the robins peck through the dirt pile for those same worms.

No matter how many times the weather throws a temper tantrum and interrupts the spring, the robins, the return of the geese, the crocuses and pussy-willows a bloom let me know that spring is marching in. That same day we saw the robins bobbing for worms, I caught our neighbors’ daughter Ella on our swing set. Hers is much nicer but the grass is always greener (no matter how busted up) over the chain link fence. It’s not only the pumpkins that know no boundaries. She had twisted the chain on the swing and then let it take her on a spin. Yet another sign of spring.

There is something about doing the same thing every year: Digging that shovel into the sod, breaking up the dirt and running my fingers through the cold ground that seems to break up time itself. Time stops being linear. All these moments—Ella on the swing, Sam and I digging for worms, my father and husband reminiscing—begin to seem as though moments can be magnetized. They attract one another until they clump together—moments from this spring and previous ones and the ones I imagine in the future. I hear those moments clicking together as if every spring was happening at this very moment.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

First Ward Parade

The First Ward parade is one of two parades attend—the other being Buffalo’s Pride Parade. And this year for the first time a Pride float was included in a St. Patrick’s Day Parade in NY State. For such a staid community, this is progressive.

The First Ward was the first neighborhood built in Buffalo and it became Irish when the immigrants moved in over 100 years ago.

We usually park near the end of the parade route by The Perry Projects. Aunt Ann and I bundled ourselves and Sam up, then pulled him in his red wagon to Our Lady of Perpetual Help. As you near the parade route, you can see the old rusted Granaries in the distance. They appear as end caps to the street. We met up with Mitch—my uncle’s finance. Danny proposed at the parade last year (see previous blog entry). Whenever I walk along the streets of the First Ward, I’m reminded of the movie Hope and Glory which is about a boy and his friends playing in the rubble of WWII. The juxtaposition of youth against the ruins of war is quite striking.

And so it is at The First Ward. That image of squads of Public Servants marching along the ruins of industry strikes me the same way. Add to it the fierce wind and rain. I can almost hear orchestral music swelling in the background. I watch it stream by me like a private movie screening.

But then someone tossed me a can of Genny beer. The crescendo reached the coda.

I’ve seen so much of continental U.S. from coast to coast and pole to pole—land and city scapes. I’ve felt restored, enlivened and gentrified in those places. But those places want not.

Whenever I’m at one of these kinds of events in Buffalo, the religious word “witness” comes to mind. Why I feel compelled to do this is a bit of conundrum for me. I’ve never understood what the importance of putting eyes or ears to an event could mean especially if I’m sharing it with other eyes and ears. If a tree falls in the forest and everyone in South Buffalo hears it, does it matter if I heard it too. Especially me. I don’t think participation is going to bring South Buffalo back to its former Glory. I don’t even Hope for that.

I’m enchanted with forging on in the rubble. I want to play in it; see my uncles and cousins march in it. I want to bundle my boy in rain gear and roll him up to the front line of it.

I simply want to witness it.