“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”
I’m thinking of F. Scott Fitzgerald as I look at my backyard.
I’ve had a stubborn leak in the corner of the second floor rec room for awhile; I keep thinking I’ve fixed it, but too much torrential rain reminds me I haven’t. A few weeks ago, I reseeded the backyard, after staring at dismal weeds for two long years.
And now, I find myself staring at weather forecasts, wanting steady, driving rain to nurture the budding lawn, and brilliant days of sunshine to delay addressing my leaky roof. My mother would have said “you want to have your cake and eat it, too”. My father would have said “who the hell plants grass seed?”
I’ve put in some vegetables for the first time. My Dad would be proud, though no doubt curious how I can call 8 tomato plants, a hot pepper and some beans a garden. Something ate the cucumbers that night; something ate the beans a week later. I have squirrels and rabbits and a chipmunk, and if I come through this season with a single tomato I will consider it a victory, because that will be one tomato more than I believed I was capable of growing. The constant rain we’ve been having has been an ally, as this accidental gardener seems to have Mother Nature on her side, if not the bunnies.
I love rain, actually. It wasn’t until I was a homeowner that I realized the dread of loose water inside a house. Water dribbling down the outside of a window or drumming on a roof is lovely, but water seeping into your basement is less so. It’s like having a squirrel in your kitchen, which has also happened; bits of nature where they don’t belong render them less romantic or darling.
My family’s nickname for me is Raine. At school, kids would run around singing “rain, rain, go away, come again another day”, and I could hear one evil little girl putting the ‘e’ on the end. I would come home crying, and my mother would say “just ignore her, you know we love you” and my father would say, “hit her with your bookbag.”
I’m glad I was raised with both schools of thought. I may pause when deciding whether to face a problem by turning the other cheek or socking it in the mouth, but it’s good to remember you usually have more options than you realize.
My current dilemma is a nice lesson in remembering that loving rain – and Raine – can be a dual edged sword. I thought we’d fixed the roof until Ari, 18, came down once again holding soggy pieces of ceiling tile. “But the grass is doing so well,” I sighed. He blinked once, shook his head and went for a garbage bag. Dealing with someone who is torn is also frustrating, it would seem.
I finally recognized that inertia is neither useful nor attractive. I made up my mind that the roof could only get worse and the lawn could only get better; the lawn needed water and my roof needed a fix. Resolution came not in changing the problem, but in reframing it, which was no doubt what Fitzgerald meant with his final line: “One should, for example, be able to see things as hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise.”
I may not have that first- rate intelligence, but I’ve got the determination in spades.