garage sale

“Oh look,” my mother says, pointing at a hand-lettered sign taped lop-sidedly to a telephone pole, “a garage sale.” She pauses – beat – beat – for the punchline: “Let’s go buy a garage,” she says, “It’s funny how many people are selling garages these days. Do you have room in your apartment for a garage?” She smiles happily at this witticism of hers, like the proud kid in the nursery rhyme who sticks his thumb in a pie and pulls out a plum.

It’s always the same routine: spring arrives, then summer, and the posters and placards sprout up from the boulevards, untidy and sprawling like the chickweed in my flower-pots. Look closely, though, and it’s possible to see astonishingly delicate white chickweed blossoms, smaller and more precious than I permit myself to admit — how, else, could I bring myself to yank them ruthlessly out of the soil? It’s like that with garage sales, I think, it’s the old adage about “my weeds are somebody else’s roses” (Is that how the saying goes? Somehow I think not. Mom would know).

My mother was invariable with her humour; like a recorded narrative that could be rewound or fast-forwarded to a cue, my mom could be relied on (or even prompted, if the devilry was in me) to come up with a (treasured!?) homily, adage, or corny joke. “Look, Mom,” I say, pointing. “Oh!” she says, smiling, delighted. She pauses, then releases her happy gift to the world: “A garage sale,” she says, “Let’s go buy a garage. The one we have at home is getting a bit shabby.”

As the days shorten into autumn, and the garage sales are becoming less frequent (in direct proportion to the number of rainy Sunday afternoons), I find myself going out of my way to read the signs — sometimes happily augmented with balloons like a birthday party; my mother would have liked that — and feeling a bit deflated if the advertisement is for a ‘yard sale’ rather than the old-school ‘garage sale.’ Although I suspect my mom might have liked to to buy a yard, given the opportunity.


one bucket at a time

it’s late at night, late summer; the temperature, even at this hour, is in the late 20s. 

it’s been hot and dry for days on end; here in the rainforest where i live this is a relatively rare thing.

i have complex system of watering thirsty plants that involves buckets in the sink to catch all the water from rinsing hands or potatoes or plates and i carry the buckets full of water out to the plants on the porch and in the yard. it’s time consuming. a hose would be faster and less tiring. but i am committed to my own little contrivance of water conservation.

one less litre of water down the drain. one more living growing plant in the city.

i call it my ‘grey water system’ because once at a fair–one of those big ones with livestock in barns and a building full of hawkers, “ladies come close, look at this cheese grater, have you seen a better one?” –there was a building, a really big one with a full-sized house in it, the house of the future and to show all its fabulous features the walls were clear plexiglass (i’m elaborating just a bit, to sound like i know what i’m talking about; i confess don’t know the type of plastic it was, something see-through. could be plexiglass, right? sounds good to me). the point of all this is that this house of the future featured a grey water system, meaning that water from the sinks was re-used in the toilet and laundry water was used on the garden. no buckets required; it was all accomplished with pipes connecting things together. i fell in love (or maybe it was lust).

not having the resources to re-pipe a house that i didn’t own anyway, i began the bucket odyssey.

my family resists it, i’m not sure why. i catch them washing lettuce and allowing the water to flow down the drain. they pour cooked pasta into the strainer and let the water escape. i think of my thirsty garden and wince, just a little. i avoid being obsessive or nagging, but just barely.

and now, late at night, a sudden downpour. water, water, everywhere. and lightning, and distant rumbling. i hear a girl shriek and run down the street outside, no doubt seeking cover.  i wonder where the dog is; she doesn’t like thunder.

but then it stops. it’s kind of weird, all that rattling, pattering, booming, roar of the rainstorm suddenly stops and the space it leaves takes a moment to fill. a moment before a helicopter growls its way overhead, a car hisses by on the wet street. and in through the window, the smell of wet. wet dust after days and days of heat and dryness. the smell of wet asphalt.  a surprisingly good smell.