THE DECK GARDEN IS UNDER WAY, and nearly every container
and pot has been planted. The cold weather has kept us from putting in
tomatoes or peppers, and hasn't done any favours to the Italian oregano
we planted a couple of weeks ago, but we decided to chance it this weekend,
and came back from Roncesvalles with three flats of seedlings.
We rushed out again and returned in a cab whose trunk
was loaded with bags of soil. Lugging them up three flights of stairs,
we set to work. K. bought some big metal wastepaper baskets, deep and wide,
for the deep roots of the tomatoes. While I transplanted the ivy we propagated
from cuttings over the winter, K. started filling the wastebaskets with
dirt and lime. An hour or so later, we had a neat row of vegetables in
big pots, and a few more ornamental containers. K.'s been on a bit of a
flower jag this year, and has abdicated responsibility for the vegetables
to me. I planted a nice pot of thyme -- lemon and mother-of-thyme -- and
two types of sage. We decided to plant more pot marigolds in small pots
and place them around the tomatoes and peppers, both for colour and to
attract ladybugs. We had a bit of an aphid plague last year, and anything
we can do to fight them off will help.
A few weeks ago, K. was sitting in bed, a stack of gardening
books by her side, storing up inspiration for the work ahead. I think the
unseasonably chill May weather frustrated her a bit. Last week it rained
for several days in a row, and while that spared us lugging water out to
the deck from the tub, it brought dreary skies and cool weather. Every
morning, K. would stand at the door leading to the deck, a forlorn look
on her face, staring at the damp pots and the plants shivering in the wind.
One book, about the revival of a decrepit,
overgrown estate garden in Cornwall, seemed to excite her most of all,
and she's been nipping into a sort of gardening
polemic on and off that's provided some further inspiration. I'm not
sure if our motley collection of pots and bins, old kitchen sinks and pails,
can satisfy her for too many more years before she'll need a real plot
of earth, but it's nice to see the deck take shape, from the sad dumping
ground of inert soil and dead stalks that emerged from the snow a couple
of months ago, the the budding collection of sprouts, seedlings and transplants
it is this weekend. By August it should be lovely.
IT'S BEEN QUITE THE WEEK for sad news. A couple of our
friends seem to be going through a rocky patch in their marriage, and it's
sent a chill through our circle of couples. While they try to work it out,
we all exchange e-mails full of sympathy and support and try not to take
sides. It's the only thing we're able to talk about, it seems.
And then, just as K. and I tentatively congratulate ourselves
on an apparently tranquil time here at home, a trip to the vet confirms
our nagging worry: our little cat, Nato, has cancer. Three months, says
the vet, maybe six. She's fine right now, maybe a bit less lively, no sign
of pain or distress, but it's probably inevitable: a slow decline, barely
noticeable, then a few, telling incidents that will be hard to ignore.
We've promised each other not to let her suffer. When
she can't function normally, when her basic behaviour seems changed and
strained, we'll take her in, together. I still can't believe it -- we walked
home from the vet with Nato in her little box, opened the lid for her to
leap out, then burst into tears. Hours later, I was bawling again. "You
can't mourn the living," K. reminded me, and she's right. Here I am, crying
for my little cat while she frisks against my leg and meows for attention.
It's breaking my heart, it really is.
So it's all just a waiting game, now. We hope she'll be
okay, that the vet was being too pessimistic, that she might have more
than six months; a year, maybe, to enjoy her life. But it's all just hope,
and hope is, sadly, the cheapest comfort. I've had that little cat since
she was a little, undernourished refugee from the pound, and I always thought
I'd have years with her. Keebler, twice her age, will probably outlive
her, as might some of the plants out on the deck. I can't even think about
it without the tears welling up. It's so damned maudlin, but impossible
to keep the thoughts from crowding to the front of my mind.
So we try, every moment, to push the thoughts back, to
ignore the impulse to imagine those last days; the decision made in low
voices; a phone call for an appointment; the last, sleepless night while
she snuggles between us in bed; the cold metal table at the vet; the last
fading look in her eyes. I can't stand it.