I’m writing a mini to-do list on a post-it note, trying to finish up the week and prepare for the next, and the last item that I write—the last thing I shall do this evening before retiring—is “make to-do list.” Since this is a note to myself, I know that I mean, “a to-do list of the things I must do before I go to Chicago on Wednesday for a five-day writing conference” but… well it seems that life has perhaps gotten out of hand if I am writing nested to-do lists.
ENGLISH 596h–Nonfiction Craft Seminar: The Science, Poetics, and Politics of Plants. From the syllabus:
I’d like each of you to choose a plant for research this semester. I’ll ask you to make this an informal obsession. Preferably you can grow the plant. Visit the plant and its relatives or seek it out through cultural use and references (research into natural and cultural history, artistic deployment of your plant, food/drug/clothing deployment of your plant, toxins required to grow your plant, songs referencing your plant, field observation, changing human relationships with your plant, anticipated effects of climate change on your plant, etc.) Keep looking for what you do not know about your plant. Invent what you cannot know about your plant. This is an experiment.
Earlier: an article: Is Sugar Toxic? New York Times Magazine, April 11, 2011. By Gary Taubes. A book: Sweetness and Power: The Place of Sugar in Modern History. By Sidney Mintz. A realization: sugar is in everything.
An email, to KatFord@DreamingofTheTropicsNursery.com
Hi Kat,I’m interested in growing a bit of sugarcane, and wanted to find out a bit more about what you offer. Is it possible to grow sugarcane in a large planter or pot? I live in Tucson, Arizona, so it’s very warm here most of the year, though also quite dry. How are your seedlings shipped? What is your price for a single seedling? I’m a writer working on a project about sugar, so I’m only interested to grow a small bit of sugarcane to understand the plant a bit more, so I would appreciate any information you could provide me!Thank you,Megan
Two weeks later: A package! The tropics arrive to Tucson.
A sapling. Heirloom Red Sugarcane. Leaves rather peakish and dry after a long journey. (“These plants can grow up to 10’ within the first growing season”):
A trip to Home Depot (“Sugarcane definitely can be grown in a large pot and honestly grows like a week so the dry hot weather isn’t a problem.”) Overwhelmed by choices: soil, pot, mulch. A 35 Liter bag of Organic Choice Potting Mix for $9.98 (twice the price of non-organic soil, but only the best for my heirloom red sapling). A $3.99 10″ Terra Cotta pot.
The heirloom red sugarcane seedling is planted. Where should the pot of sugarcane live? (“Until after all danger of frost has passed they would be best indoors.”) What about the bathroom, where it is most humid? The living room, where it will get the most sun? Limited floorspace dictates that for now, Red shall occupy the bedroom. The tropical terra cotta pot joins a row of desert succulents.
I got to be a tourist in Tucson! Courtesy of the L.A. Times! Biosphere 2, Bookmans, bacon-wrapped hot dogs, and the southern-most ski resort in the country. Arizona, you’re tops.
Grand vistas? Check. Funky restaurants? On the list. Wild and woolly history? You got it. Arizona marks the centennial of its statehood, so we scoured the state and found five score places for your “must” list.
It was a 12-hour work-and-class day and there were two presentations and it rained and there was no umbrella and I forgot about Valentine’s Day and then I came home and there was a 1-800 Flowers box on my porch sent from a best friend who I haven’t seen in a year. Day maker. And…right: that’s what this holiday is for. #bestbuds
A bird chirps outside my window. It sits on the window ledge and putters about. Saturday morning, and after a very hectic month life is finally still enough to drink coffee and stare at the chirping birds that twit around this quiet desert town. I’ve had three visitors in the past month, and they all noticed either the chirping birds or the quiet town or the desertness of the desert.
My sister got off the plane from Seattle and said, “Oh dear. But it’s so brown.” No, no, I said. Tucson seems brown, but it’s really not. I pointed out the palo verde cactus, which rather looks like a tree but has no leaves and instead green bark from head to toe (to better photosynthesize). “Oh my!” she said. “It looks like Dr. Seuss came to town.”
It has been a busy dive back into graduate school life since the lolling, movie- and food-filled holidays. I love graduate school. This is something I must continue to remind myself as the tasks pile up and as I begin to realize perhaps I have committed myself to too many interesting and exciting things this semester. It is busy, but it is fine, because I love graduate school. The busyness has me rushing across campus on my bike, and while I love all the things I am doing, I rather miss walking.
The weather is cold, the bike rides are colder, and hands are cracked and dry. I’ve taken to getting up at 6 a.m. to go to yoga or on a jog, the only time I can fit these activities in, and it is even colder and dryer still before the sun comes up. But it is quiet in the morning, quieter than usual, and in the desert, the sun always comes. Faintly at first and then melting then face lifted towards it, paused in the sun-spackled space between shady walkways; the sun arrives and it is warm.