Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Starting Over

"It is amazing to me, " said Bingley. "How young ladies can have the patience to be so very accomplished as they all are."

From Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.

Miss Bingley saw, or suspected enough to be jealous; and her great anxiety for the recovery of her dear friend Jane received some assistance from her desire of getting rid of Elizabeth. She often tried to provoke Darcy into disliking her guest, by talking of their supposed marriage, and planning his happiness in such an alliance.

From Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.

Well. It happened.

Several weeks back, we had a freeze. Not a hard one, but cold enough so that my uncovered plants were destroyed. Had I remembered to cover them, I think that they would have survived, but the whole incident got me to thinking...

I planted what I thought were cold hearty vegetables: kale, brussels sprouts, etc. The problem, I see so clearly now in a big "duh" moment, is that the plants were still babies. If they had been adults, and more robust, then I'm sure that they would have come through just fine.

Lesson learned? ... start sooner. The time to start winter vegetables around here is in the fall after it's cooled down enough so that your leafy greens don't bolt but it's still going to stay warm enough so that the plants have enough of a real head start... not only to deal with the rare truly
freezing night but, maybe more importantly, with the shorter days and stingy light of winter.

Winter turns to spring quickly here and this is a time of starting over...not just for my garden but for me. I am officially unemployed and, for the first time in my life, not by choice. It's a recent development and I feel an odd, and completely unexpected, sense of freedom along with the more predictable anxiety. Time seems to mutate, to expand. I have long stretches of it that never were there before. How will I fill it all? Then I realize that what I have is the same amount of time that I always I just have different choices in how to spend it. New possibilities open up. Of course, a lot of my time is, and must be, devoted to job hunting and networking, but...

... now a daily yoga practice becomes a reality and not just a goal that I never quite reach.

...I finally actually have the time to do a genuine Spring Cleaning. It's something that I've wanted to do ever since we moved into this house. I've always imagined other people clean their house thoroughly from top to bottom once a year and those other people have, in my more crazed moments, a sort of moral superiority or strength of character over myself who has always wanted to do a Spring Cleaning but never has quite managed it.

...I can get more exercise. I have the time now to walk to town, to the store, or to the library instead of taking the bus or driving.

...I have more time for doing the sort of cooking that I love: labor intensive and/or learning experience type recipes. Here's the remains of the peach cobbler that I made yesterday from farmers market peaches that I froze last summer.

Cobblers aren't hard, but I've never made one before.

Maybe it sounds like I'm in denial about my situation but, believe me, stark reality is always right at the surface of my awareness. I think what I'm doing is trying to keep myself positive and productive in the face of an inner voice that belongs to a very familiar persona...part standard issue nag part extremely inventive doomsayer and alarmist. Even now she is scolding me. "Why are you blogging? You need to get out there and find a job! Something! Anything! RIGHT THIS SECOND!"

Of course, there is genuine urgency to my situation, but no more so than that of all the other people who are out there right now looking for work. Maybe I am ultimately a genuine optimist because I can't help but feel possibilities opening up inside of what at one time I might have called a disaster. Such a relative word, disaster. When I was 9, a disaster was moving away from my first best friend. When I was 13, a disaster was throwing up on the double Ferris wheel in full view of everyone who was attending the county fair. I'm not living in a war zone. I'm not starving. I'm not homeless. I'm just unemployed.

I've started a spring garden here toward winter's tail.

At the beginning of February, I planted lettuce, radishes, peas - both sugar snap and English. All of those tender and sweet flavors of warmer days and still cool nights. All of these are easy because you direct sow them in the soil.

Then you wait.

...and that's something else I've discovered about myself as a gardener. I get impatient waiting for plants to come up although waiting is exactly what you have to do.

Planning and patience... lessons learned.

Today's Twist

Jane Austen was an English novelist most active between 1811 and 1816. Although she published anonymously during her lifetime, her books are today some of the most beloved and widely read. Although Austen's depictions of rural gentry life are comic and often rather sly and mischievous, she also paints a serious picture of women's almost complete dependence on marriage to gain social and economic security.
Mr. Bingley in the quote above is referring to a very specific range of skills, or "accomplishments", that were considered essential for young women to make themselves mistress of...usually in order to render themselves more entertaining and ornamental in company. His sister, Miss Bingley, is worried, and for good reason, early on in the novel that her own target for marriage, the very wealthy Mr. Darcy, might be developing a dangerous liking for Elizabeth Bennet, the heroine of the novel. Miss Bingley makes heroic efforts to secure Mr. Darcy for herself, but it's clear that he doesn't really consider her as a serious contender for his affections and her stratagems for getting Elizabeth out of the picture only paint her (unwitting)
rival as more interesting to Mr. Darcy.
Austen fans can be quite adamant about which novel is the best, but Pride and Prejudice is certainly the best known and widest read. As someone who rereads all of Jane Austen over and over, I can say fervently, if not adamantly, that it is my favorite.