Glorious hot summery sunshine again. The back garden flooded with irrigation water from the mountains and the birds are darting about as earthworms come up to the surface. The housemate very tired but a little better – I can’t think of anything more exhausting than a nightly cough that won’t go away.
I am preparing small pots for fuchsia cuttings, a pretty bush I once despised for its easy prettiness. Now I can’t wait to have pink, mauve, white fuchsia bells tumbling down from a pot on the shady stoep. I am immersed in the slow and demanding art of proagating plants from seed — I do cuttings quite easily, have teh knack of that, but seeds are more of a mystery, that unseen germination and pricking out tiny seedlings, identifying plants, keeping them safe from greedy little birds. There are pots lined up along the kitchen windowsill.
‘So frugal!’ I say happily to the housemate, showing her a tiny green axial leaf that might be coriander or some pernicious bindweed and which I shall transplant with eyebrow tweezers and a pencil. The housemate tries to sound encouraging. She associates frugal with old-age pensioners saving up cardboard toilet rolls and living on a scrap of watery mince bulked up with spoonfuls of tinned baked beans. I associate frugal with being an adventurous 23 years old and growing my own herbs on the balcony of my old spacious flat near the university, grinding my own spices by hand, making exotic pilaffs and bowl after bowl of lentil soup flavoured with fresh mint, Italian parsley, cumin. Debt scares me, but not being short of money. If I can have an abundance of pots filled with ripening cherry tomatoes, fresh basil and wild rocket by blazing hot December, we will have free salads on hand until May next year.
Real grinding poverty is different, of course and we see that all around us. Retrenchments and displaced refugees, the destitute and homeless. Another kind of challenge, to share what we have, to work for meaningful change, for a more prosperous society. Petitions, protests, community forums, another shelter for battered women before next winter, vaccination schemes, school-feeding menus, soup kitchens, Aids hospices, health education. It feels overwhelming at times, the lack of infrastructure and the scale of the problems, but we carry on and things get done, not enough but something.
This sober realism struck me in a post I was reading about sobriety — from my friend Craig:
Faith in the recovery context means holding on to the belief that life will be better sober than drinking/using even though one may feel like absolute crap after quitting. An important part of a support group is the opportunity to hear from people who’ve made it through to the other side that things really are better sober and that while life may still crap on us regularly, the pain will be less than if we’re drinking. In this context, “faith” is a matter of holding onto the idea that improvement is guaranteed, even if the guarantee is “only” that you’ll be much better off but not necessarily happy or trouble free. This is one of those situations where the ‘perfect is the enemy of the good’ for some people — they become discouraged by the fact that they’re still poor, or still in trouble with the law, or still lonely. Sobriety fixes addiction and strengthens our ability to face other challenges, but it doesn’t make those challenges go away. You just gotta have faith that sobriety will help everything, not fix everything..