Jacksonville Beach: Tumulus in the Bean Field

by Tim Gilmore, 7/6/2012

Here it is, straight-no-chaser, not so complex or mysterious or mystical at all. The reason she takes such satisfaction from placing compost in the garden a week before she plants is that two childhood facts come together. 1) Her mother was an urban gardener of a hippie. 2) Her father died when she was 11 years old.

So Joan too was a farmer many generations down. That peacenik-communitarian communion with the earth came to her from a long lineage.

So Joan had never stopped missing her father. She never did stop mourning, though after some time the mourning became a kind of celebration of having had her father as a father. At 36, she could not now hear in her head his laugh, and if that fact was sad, it did not make her sad. As pantheism is the understanding of God in everything around us, her own personal Shintoism let her understand that everything living is made of the dead, and her father accompanied her in every surrounding.

She hoed up the weeds and rye grass and let them all lie atop the ground. She had a couple books she didn’t want that the used bookstores wouldn’t buy, an omnibus book of erotica with which she’d become bored and a 200-page book all about John 3:16. For God so loved the world, and so forth and so on. She dug two holes in the middle of the upended rye grass and buried the books in them. Then she unloaded, one wheelbarrowfull at a time, 200 pounds of compost from the bin around back of her short pine-green concrete-block apartment, on top of the rye and weeds. She watered the compost with the hose. She folded a tarp over the top of the compost tumulus and weighed down the edges with bricks. In the mornings of the next week, she would see the bacterial steam emerging from the sides of the tarp. Next week, she’ll remove the tarp, cover the tumulus with old newspaper, place the wire trellises, and plant the purple Italian snap beans.