Peering Over the Hedge

The warm provincial air is good for a poet.

Being a naturalist has become a scruple, a tug at the conscience. I thought the urban has a style of living quite unheard of in little villages and hamlets of the province. But I am often overcome with longing to the smell of fresh driftwood fires and grasses awakening at the light of day. By the by, I turned against my mind: I cannot be satisfied that humanity can reach its apex by sitting at a stool, filling desks with figures and mess that might not matter a whit in a hundred years from now.

It is an open rebellion against the common belief that the town square, with its crowded alleys and smoke-begrimed trees can be a source of easing comfort. In the evenings, while people clad in suits and knit-sweaters breeze past the roads to whatever occupation that awaits them, a nostalgic recollection of walking barefoot at the rich fertile grounds in the mountains, and the sharply delicious sensation of blades sticking out to your naked feet became memento of past summers. There is no miracle, of course, in such wild excursions of tussled hair and primitive independence.

On a Saturday, I invited out a dear friend for kafeeklatsch(coffee hour) at a nearby café. A few of those rare meaningful conversations were long-cherished plans. The tight, grueling priorities in the university allowed but small time for leisure. Despite the danger of a downpour and the cool wind on our flushed cheeks, we defied the throng of crowds and she walked behind me with all the grace of an old woman and asked why I’d been so quiet did I hit my head on the wall and did her chatter troubled me.

Our sprightly steps brought us sauntering at a bookshop. We spent considerable time deciding whether The Count of Monte Cristo was better than A Little Princess, and the latter won out. It started to rain and it fell heavily against the roofs of buildings and cobblestones on the pavement I’d like to imagine flowers drinking the dew to their heart’s content.

A parade of umbrellas enfolded the shower, a cold reception to what must have been a beautiful change of weather. I slowed my pace and said the trees looked forlorn in the pavements and she asked why is that so? The streets are cemented by layers and layers of bricks and trees can’t breathe under them, I said. She merely laughed at my strange monologues and replied I understand, sometimes trees grow on spots you’d never want them to be. The admirable simplicity of how she said it makes me want to live through life looking up the sky and embracing the bloom of a new day.

When we parted ways, I returned to the all-too familiar scene of my home: father cooking dinner on the saucepan and complaining about another broken ladle and please if I could heat the water for his evening coffee. I’ve cleared my desk when I left, and the clutter of books and pins and papers remain suspended with time, as though I never left at all, unconsciously working through a series of statistical problems I knew I couldn’t answer, even if I tried to.

Sitting in the square of twilight, I asked my father at dinnertime where could I buy flower seeds and is it too expensive for my allowance. He looked up and said why should a university student trouble herself with flowers and plants when I could dig my brains on books and get on with it?

I’d like to grow my own garden.

In the city?

No, at the mountains once we return.

The flowers will wither before you see them a-blooming.

But I can take good care of them, see if I don’t.

Fiddlesticks!

There is mild tolerance for the honking of car horns now and the screeching of wheels. A calm acceptance and silent reproof for men in knit-sweaters who plunge through work at breakneck speed. And the openness to get through life away from the moss-covered wooden fences of my childhood. The warm provincial air is good for a poet. But the trade wind beneath the sails is better for a wanderer.

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