Temperatures are averaging above freezing on a regular basis in Portland, and that means that it's time to start planting gardens for most of the city's residents. Even though I'm an import, it seems that I'm not an exception to the rule.

There have been raised garden beds sitting fallow in the side yard since I moved in. Two of the last residents left a collection of strawberries behind - a known quantity, and not one I expected to survive. Meanwhile, grass, clover, and other weeds have been encroaching on the beds, covering them in a thick carpet of green fed by the ever-present rains of Cascadia.

So on Monday, I went on down to the Portland Nursery and picked up:

  • A garden cultivator
  • A spade
  • 40 or so kale starters
  • 12 strawberry plants
  • 16 daffodils
  • 6 snowdrops
  • A single pot of irises (a really nice lady who works there offered me surplus bearded irises and implored me not to buy any)
  • A trellis (the roses on the front sidewalk were threatening to eat passers-by)
  • Some sort of organic root food for planting

Life and the current schedule of contracting being what it is, I didn't actually get to the beds until today. What I found was not precisely the anarchy I expected.

Sure, there was grass all throughout the beds, and ten or so minutes with a cultivator in one and some judicious root-shaking cleaned that out. But there were also four strawberry plants that wintered over without any kind of mulching, a strange, oddly massive collection of greens I didn't recognize, a passel of beans abandoned to go to seed, and some round, scalloped leaves in another bed that oddly resemble squashes.

Suspicion and the knowledge that a vegan chef had been at the garden caused me to take pictures and send one to a botanist buddy who swiftly replied that it looked like turnip greens, but she'd need to see the roots.

Well, in for a penny, in for a pound, and the strawberries were being smothered by the greens. I uprooted the bush, which turned out to be seven or so distinct plants as opposed to the single monolithic green it appeared, and took some quick photos for SMSing (for the botanist) and emailing (to one of the former residents).

Upon better shots of the stems and roots, my friend quickly replied that I probably had some mustard greens, and that I should most definitely eat them instead of replanting them.

I was disappointed, until the former resident got back to me. "Mustard greens or miner's lettuce," he said. "We tried to get rid of them, but they just kept coming back."

Indeed, on my way back out to fetch the cultivator I'd abandoned in favor of doing my afternoon consulting, I noticed several waist-high bushes of greens leaning against the foundation of the house.

We're going to be eating a LOT of greens this year.

Horns and guitar rhythmically pump behind the lead singer of Mariachi El Bronx as I write this, and my feet tap happily to the tune on the floor under my desk. I am alive and happy. My body aches with this satisfying soreness, a reminder of last night's workout. Outside, the wind is up between 10 and 15 mph, racing ahead of a front that promises uncommon snow for our area. But on this side of my window it is warm. A cornucopia of books, music, and writing materials spreads away from me down both flanks of my desk. Despite my impending 20% pay reduction and the thin patina of depression that still covers my thoughts as a residue from earlier this week, I am in a good place mentally and physically. The disconnect I felt with Everything2 at the end of 2012 has receded. Bolstered by a flurry of recent Decaversary interviews, I feel compelled to check in with the "tribe", as a recent user referred to e2.

So how is everyone? What adventures have you had in the past two months to start this new year? What things have you learned? Who have you embraced in the still of the night? Have you read any great books lately? When was the last time your body felt a rush of adrenaline spilled into its unsuspecting self?

As discussed at the end of December, I've taken the new year as an opportunity to engage in new habits and experiences. Here's a short list of what I've been up to lately:

  • Outdoors again: Living in town certainly has its perks. Now that I am only a mile away from numerous parks, I've had a chance to play disc golf, go hiking, take my daughter to swim lessons, and generally be out of doors more often without impacting the family schedule. This has been great for my body and great for my mental state. As someone who really despises this time of year, outdoor activities are important to keep me from becoming morose. Even more exciting for me, I now live close to a climbing gym. A friend at work teaches there, and I will be doing that a lot more frequently. My hope is to build my skill level enough to feel comfortable on some of the larger climbs in the area. Ultimately this is an aspect of outdoor photography that I would like to pursue, clipped in 100 feet off the ground, snapping photos of other climbers as they work routes past me.
  • And indoors as well: Over the last half of 2012 I had began collecting reading recommendations from users both here and elsewhere. While I was reading at the time, the purchase of our new home and the subsequent move occupied most of my time. Since the beginning of January, I have had the opportunity to read through several excellent things. I knocked out All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy, whose writing style continues to strike me as both powerful and simple. He gets it, and by "it" I mean the man can write like a motherfucker, as the New York Times would say. As soon as I pick them up, I'm looking forward to reading the remaining two books in the Border Crossing Trilogy. I read Marvel Comics: the Untold Story, a random Christmas gift which I actually enjoyed quite a bit. Reading about the tensions between Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, and editorial change after editorial change, leading up until the chaos of the 1990s filled in a lot of gaps for me as a casual comic reader. I powered through the next A Song of Fire and Ice book, A Feast for Crows, which for whatever reason I continue to enjoy despite the feeling that hundreds of pages at a time are spent developing characters without the story actually moving forward. I read a historical reference book containing primary documents from Roman history. Then for something less serious (or terribly serious, depending on your point of view), I rushed through Chuck Palahniuk's Rant: The Oral Biography of Buster Casey. This is the third book I have read by Palahniuk, and I continue to value the "outsider" perspective he brings to his stories. Lastly, I'm about halfway through House of Leaves recommended by none other than Jet-Poop himself. I understand why he seemed to have difficulty properly explaining it, but now I get where he was going and it has been a great read so far. Except for that whole my house may be haunted thing, which is no fun to deal with when reading this book, but that is another writeup.
  • Speaking of other writeups: As a couple my wife and I decided to make 2013 more about us. In four years of being parents, we have been away from our daughter overnight four times. One of those was our five-year anniversary, and the rest were all single night trips. We hold strongly to the belief that it is important for us to maintain our relationship as a couple separate from being identified as parents, because one day our daughter will grow up and move away to a life of her own. When that time comes, we want to be sure that we still have something together independent of parenting. So this year we have mixed things up in crazy and unexpected ways. It all began in December when my wife declared that she wanted to post some pictures on /r/gonewild on Reddit. As a shutterbug, I obviously never turn down a chance to photograph her. Fast forward two months, and we are at a Valentine's Day party where we are seated with friends having the most normal looking evening together, except people in various stages of undress continue to walk by us and the dance floor nearby is host to what appears to be a bacchanalia. But that is also another writeup, and a crazy one to boot.
  • And finally, a thanks to Halspal: Rereading Halspal's Decaversary interview, I was struck by the attitude of almost clinical removal from any idea of "community" or group identity related to e2. This is certainly not a sentiment I have always shared here, and definitely not one shared by many others, but more and more, especially since the last half of 2012, I've come around to a similar feeling. Halspal's Decaversary reminded me that first and foremost this is a place for sharing individual knowledge (in written form) with the world at large. I have become guilty of writing too many daylogs. While I still believe they have much value in sharing the minutia of our day to day experiences, I personally plan on moving my writing back to more factual type writeups. My goal is to limit myself to one daylog each month, and try to always have at least one other writeup between logs. We will see how well I do at that.

****************************

Best wishes everyone,
-- corvus

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