Monday, December 15, 2008

September 6, 2008 “A Day For Darning Socks”




“The tropics,” our Vermont Public Radio weather man announces, “are active.” Which means they're breeding hurricanes and tropical depressions like the late-summer woods breed ticks.

And it doesn't matter if these depressions are as far as the Bermuda Triangle or the Sargasso Sea, every time one of them forms, I get depressed as well. Whereas the day before the sight of ripe tomatoes in the garden sent me into ecstasies of sauce-making, now, with a tropical depression hovering, nothing much seems worth the trouble. What is the use of tomatoes, after all? All life--specifically, garden, dogs, chickens, even husband--is vanity. Death awaits us all. In a mere 24 hours the active tropics have transformed me from fervent Epicurean to medieval theologian.

I look out the window, and all Nature echoes my despair. Vegetables and flowers droop under the downpour, trees drip. The dogs drowse. The birds are silent. The hens and their husband are the only ones out, hunting for God-knows-what creature that is out in this weather. They are soaked through, though, and look despondent.

But is Nature really in despair or have I fallen prey yet again to the pathetic fallacy? Just because a plant droops, is it necessarily depressed? Under those drooping leaves and branches, networks of roots are quietly absorbing the rain and its nutrients.

My mother used to say that a day like this--low barometric pressure, high humidity, driving rain--is perfect for darning socks. I can see her now, sitting by a window on the straight-backed chair she favored, needle and thread in one hand, a sock (with a wooden darning egg underneath it) in the other, mending what was torn, being thrifty, making us all feel tended.

Darning socks is not the most challenging or creative of tasks. The mender sits, head bent over her task, not unlike a drooping tree branch huddled in the rain. But who knows what is churning underneath, being reborn, energized, by the gloomy-seeming day?

I'm too impatient to darn socks, in any weather. But I'm trying to learn, when tropical or other depressions head my way, to droop gracefully, and take comfort in the thought that there is good work going on beneath the surface.

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