Rooting around for the last of the sweet peppers and snagging a few fading zinnias on the way, my hand raked across a piece of rusted metal in the raised bed. Remnant from one of my kids’ art projects, the tin lid had obviously spent the summer being irrigated, and was revealed in its deconstructing glory only when I started to clean up the garden. Not sharp (fortunately), the lid called to me through a tangle of weeds.
My garden, overgrown and neglected through the end of a busy summer and start of school season, is undergoing seasonal deconstruction of its own, breaking down and beginning to return to its energy into the earth. It was just the right place this morning as I was struggling to recover energy after a flu that really knocked me down this week. The September sun warmed my back, and the colors of the late flowers—salmon zinnias, deep-orange Tithonia, amber Rudbeckia—were mellower and more comforting than the shocking pinks and oranges that dominated the garden earlier in the year.
I’m not sure if it was the flu, or that I was missing people who are not here right now, or perhaps the wistful rumblings of the wild turkeys’ daily parade through our neighborhood, but I was feeling a little melancholy as I pawed aimlessly though the bed. That’s when I found the lid.
My kids’ wanton mess making in the yard frequently annoys me. Near the trampoline, there are remnants from dozens of popped balloons. I’d rather they weren’t strewn about the yard, but I’m remembering the giggles that preceded the popping frenzy. Even better, I recall coming out to the living room on my birthday and finding the floor covered with those same balloons. We played balloon volleyball until the smell of pancakes lured us to the table.
In another corner of the yard, iridescent scraps of punchinella (sequin waste, left over after they are punched) litter the lawn. And on the patio table (which is inadvertently devoted mostly to arts and crafts), there is a cereal box covered with blue and purple paint. Nearby, a paintbrush’s cheap bristles glisten with that same paint, forever frozen at awkward angles. I’m not entirely sure, but I think my youngest daughter is the culprit there. Now 9, I can picture the intense look of concentration on her face as she cuts and paints. The image mostly banishes annoyance from my mind.
The tin piece once belonged to an Altoid tin. I’ve collected and been bequeathed many an empty Altoid tin over the years. I’ve sanded, painted and altered them into small reliquaries and repositories. My kids love their size and last year went through a phase of painting and decorating many. This one bears the remnants of primary-bright acrylics favored by my son. The inside though, is gorgeously rusted and I am reminded by the shape of what a perfect little shrine this vessel makes.
You see, I love rusted metal objects. I want to know the stories behind the patina, and I can feel the passage of time encoded in them. I delight in finding rusted objects in my daily travels, and I love when I am gifted with random bits. So finding one in the garden today was a happy discovery. As I began to envision the work ahead—of pulling weeds, taking stock, deciding what seeds to save, what needs to be composted or tossed to the curb—I was rather pleased by this rusted object and immediately began to envision in it an art project. Can’t wait to play with it.
None of this means my children are off the hook for cleaning up the yard. But I am grateful for having had a tranquil moment to think about kids and art, rust and gardens, and the cycles of change. I sometimes worry that I keep my art too private, that’s it not something I share enough with them. But then one of them gifts me with an ATC or a pair of earrings, or I pause to consider the tangible signs of an artful life strewn around our house and yard, and I am reassured. It’s enough to kick melancholy in the butt.
Think I’ll ask the kids to hide a few metal things in the garden and see what the winter rains produce!