It was a long weekend of puttering. I planted about a million pepper plants: cayenne, aci sivri, topepo rosso, cieliga, cieliga hot, corno di toro, and I think at least one other variety that I’m forgetting. I also planted some brussels sprouts, fennel, round eggplants, and long eggplants. I still have the tarragon, sage, lavender, and columbines in the cold frame because it got hot, and I lost my transplant mojo. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned is to stop planting when I’m getting impatient and bored, because that’s when I make mistakes and wind up with stuff where I don’t want it. I still need to get out there with the seeds — I need more carrots (once you’ve eaten your own carrots, you’re ruined for grocery store carrots forever), and basil, and I think it’s time to put in some lettuces and endives. I love bitter greens.
This is what I did with the rest of my weekend. I hung out. Note the cushions — that was a craft project a few weeks ago (Kentucky Derby weekend). It’s impossible to buy replacement cushions for furniture like this — apparently, they want you to buy a whole new set of furniture, which is a complete waste. So I ordered the fabric from Sunbrella (outdoorfabrics.com) and bought a big sheet of foam from the fabric store, and I made new cushion covers. They’re so much better! The foam is about twice as thick and the Sunbrella fabric is not only much prettier than the original, but really water resistant. I’ve been hanging out in the backyard reading books. When it gets cool in the evening, a little fire in the firepit (a splurge, but worth it) and the light from the Coleman lantern hanging in the apple tree — it’s really quite fabulous out there.
It’s part of my campaign to Take Back My Brain. I don’t know if any of you have seen this article on how reading so much short, fragmented prose online is killing our ability to concentrate, but I know I can definitely see this happening to me. I work on line. I’m online all day long. I’ve got emails and IM messages and silly websites all going at the same time, and I can really see a difference. I find it increasingly hard to sit down and read a whole book without wanting to jump up and see if I’ve gotten any email or what’s happened in the news. Now I used to be a person who can concentrate. I got a PhD in English for goodness sakes — I used to read long books full of impenetrable postmodern theory, and ecocriticism, and all those novels I had to read — of course, I had a mild case of chronic fatigue at the time, which sort of helped (the Victorian Illness I called it — a low-grade fever that lasted for 3 or 4 years, but it was good for reading long books — I didn’t feel well enough to go do something, but I could still concentrate.) At any rate, I’ve noticed that between the internet and TV, my ability to concentrate has really been crappy lately.
And so, the outdoor reading room. There’s no TV. There’s not even any music (which is fine, I have more trouble with audio distraction than with visual distraction). A little fire in the firepit, the Coleman lantern is more than bright enough, a glass of wine, a snuggly dog. Really, it’s fantastic. This weekend alone I managed to finish rereading the incomparable Light Years by James Salter, and this year’s winner of the Pen/Faulkner award, The Great Man by Kate Christensen. I’m also rereading Middlemarch because I just think one should every few years. As far as nonfiction goes, I’ve been dipping in and out of Robert Pogue Harrison’s new book Gardens: An Essay on the Human Condition, and The Craftsman by Richard Sennett.