April 24, 2018

Al Martinez On Everything Else: Life in a Garden of Rain and Cold


Rain threatens as I sit in our gazebo with a cup of coffee and my laptop, looking over our winter garden.

The sky is alternately gray and blue, with darkness threatening to obscure every patch of the small clusters of light that remain.

It is 8 0’clock in the morning and I am exercising my instincts.

That is to say I am looking at the garden and thinking good thoughts, even though I am cold and even though the day’s darkness does not contribute to a positive attitude.

I am wearing sweat pants, a heavy sweater, a leather jacket and fur-lined slippers, but I am still cold. The thermometer says it is 41 degrees, which may constitute a summer day in Wisconsin but is a blizzard condition in L.A.

They sweat in Milwaukee while I shiver in Topanga.

I should have worn my pull-down fisherman’s cap that says “England” across the front. I bought it from a small gift shop in London’s west side because, like today, I was cold over there too and recalled reading that we lose most of our body heat through our head.

It helped a little.

The reason I am sitting in the chilly dampness of the gazebo looking over the garden is because of its alleged health values. Gazing at the bright red camellias, the gold-stained birds of paradise and the variable greens and browns of the oak trees is supposed to be therapeutic.

It is actually my wife’s garden, worked by the energetic Cinelli through every transient patch of weather one can imagine. She’s the one who digs in the earth and plants the seeds that are sprouting at this very moment.

She’s the one who hung a small sign on a wall facing our back deck that says “Life Began in a Garden.”

Gardening is her form of exercise, and I will grant you that it is probably more interesting than running on a treadmill, jumping in place while flailing your arms or following a routine of aerobics that enhance the body beautiful and the heart eternal.

I have seen her shadowy silouhette in the faltering light of a fading day, a wide-brimed sunhat concealing her face in the light that remains, and I have seen her in the embrace of a soft rain, oblivious to a gathering storm on the pressing horizon.

She has kept her beauty and her generally good health planting and trimming and designing new pathways through our acre of oak trees and greenery: an apple tree here, an orange tree there; a fig tree, palms, flowers and tropical fronds all share space in Cinelli’s world. They co-exist, taking from each other what each has to offer, giving what each can afford.

Nature seeks a balance of sun and shadow. We could learn from our garden, and perhaps that’s what I’m doing now, exercising my psyche to benefit my outlook. But it’s starting to sprinkle and laptops, unlike camellias, do not draw from the moisture. I rush, head-ducked, toward the house.

The garden waits for another day.