Saturday, August 1, 2009

Seeking perfection

Sometimes, it feels as if I never meet my own expectations.

I expect to have a beautiful garden. It should be easy – some seeds, some annuals, some perennials that come up on their own year after year, and of course, the weeding and dead heading that any garden requires. Simple, all things within my abilities, but even after hours and hours – no, days and days - of weeding, the garden doesn’t look like those in the books.

We expect to bale good hay. We try to keep the thistles, mustard, leafy spurge, and dandelions that grow in our fields under control. We read about what makes good hay; we fertilize our fields; we cut at the appropriate time for maximum nutrition; we make small square bales that are stored in a barn instead of the large round bales that are all to often left outside to begin the process of rot; we watch the weather. But somehow, we know that Dave’s Grandpa Roy wouldn’t think well of our hayfield or our hay.

I expect to have a nice looking house, and yet, our house nearly always needs to be cleaned. Structurally, it is a beautiful home, with a lovely wood circular staircase, white tile floors, beautiful oak cabinets and lots of big windows to let in the sun. But somehow, my house never looks in reality like it does in my mind.

In spite of all our aspirations, in spite of all our work, we never meet our goals.

A tooth broke on the haybine when we cut in June, leaving a three inch trail of uncut alfalfa and thistles spiraling through the fields. Dave cut hay again on Monday. On Wednesday, when it should have been ready to bale, the rain began. Rain is still falling as I write. The windrows are turning brown. Tomorrow, or Saturday, when the rains stop, Dave will cut the next field. Meanwhile, the three inch trail is a spiral of lovely purple thistle blooms – blatant evidence of our failure to control the weeds. Perhaps on Monday we will finally bale some good hay. By the end of next week, the thistles should all be gone, hopefully before their seeds have matured.

In my more rational moments, I know that I will never have a garden like those in the books. I have a more relaxed sort of garden, where some hollyhocks stretch up four feet high at the front of the bed, and the grasses that weave their way between the Russian sage stems are impossible to remove. Daisies bloom and go to seed faster than we can deadhead them. Only one zinnia and one sunflower forced their way through the untilled soil at the back of the garden, two patches of Batchelor buttons reseeded themselves. I love the relaxed air of my garden, the sense of whimsy that the haphazard collection and arrangements of plants implies.

Our house feels welcoming, homey. We have wonderful art work by friends and relations, and the walls are lined with favorite books. But the rooms are messy, piled with half read magazines and books. My spinning wheel (well, two spinning wheels) sit along one wall, next to a floor loom that is almost warped. The rocks we’ve gathered that don’t fit in the curio cabinet line the walls. Baskets of wool and fiber work in progress fill all the corners. Further, living on a farm means that every time we step into the house, we bring dirt with us, from the garden, the unpaved driveway, or the barnyard. Dog hair and hay bits gather in the corners, cat fur and pieces of raw wool tangle around furniture legs, and the throw rugs always harbor spoonfuls of sand. We are people who would rather work on a fun project or read a good book, than clean.

I am not a perfectionist; I know this about myself. So why do I seek perfection in my garden, my house, or my hay field? Seeking is not the same as finding. To seek perfection is a worthy goal. Finding perfection, at least in garden, hayfield, and home, is perhaps more than anyone could reasonably expect.

1 comment:

  1. And the funny thing, is if I (and I suspect you) actually tried to live in a "Perfect" house- perfectly organized, perfectly coordinated and perfectly clean, we'd hate it. It would feel sterile and empty. Within our chaos is excitment and creativity and passion. Even though it's frustrating at times, I think we should keep the chaos.