On closing out the week with a little disc golf

Leif Johnson — 15 Jun 2009, 00:06

This week I've found myself often thinking of the garden at our house in Idaho. I was wee when we built its three terraces, dragging huge, fallen trees into the backyard with the Kubota. But some pieces of it still loom large in my memory.

Closest to the back door of the house, the top terrace had a compost pile, a glorified, fenced-off area filled with organic material and worms. The compost was flanked on the far side by rhubarb and potatoes, and on the near side by a grassy path separating the garden from the house. The path led downhill into what remained of the backyard after the garden had been constructed : a grassy slope, bordered below by salmonberry bushes and on the side by fir trees.

The entire bottom bed of the garden was filled, in my memory, with strawberry plants. I don't recall what grew in the middle terrace, but there must have been some sugar snap peas somewhere, because I remember Mama showing me how to snap them off once they were ripe and swollen and eat one or two now and then, crisp and sweet from the sun, while picking. I also remember zucchini squash and carrots, and probably some spinach. But kale ? Maybe ? Chard ? I just don't remember.

Because I was smaller then, two and four and six years old, the physical dimensions of my memories are even more warped than they would normally be by Father Time. But the recollections of some shapes and colors remain. Thin, pale runners from the strawberry plants jump out over the deep green leaves, chartreuse and then ruby-colored berries mostly hidden underneath. Sprinklers flash brightly in the sunlight over the green slope of the backyard. Brittle egg shells and brown hay mix in the compost. Breezes push the clouds around in the pale sky. The garden of my memory exists only in the summer.

Work and gardens

Things have been going well at my summer internship. It's been rewarding in many ways to be back—I feel as though someone has decided to give me a second go in this old work environment. And, given how I've changed in the meantime, I'm finding that I'm much better able to take advantage of the opportunities provided by working with so many amazing people. Instead of more of the old scene, work this summer is full of interesting ideas and possible improvements to some of the most amazing software in the world. I'm learning a lot and will hopefully be able to say more concrete things at the end of the summer when we get our excellent results.

Along the way, I've been having quite a few bizarre, wonderful meetings with people from the past. I hadn't quite realized how many people I'd met at work before, since I'd generally been pretty unhappy and put up a lot of walls to keep myself safe. But it's surprisingly refreshing to see everyone again and think of what changes and what doesn't. At any rate, there is no shortage of people to meet and catch up with at lunch.

There are some mini-gardens near the cafes at work, and I've wondered often whether these tiny planters actually produce anything that the cafes use. It seems more likely to me that the gardens are more a “proof of concept,” but I'm not certain. For example, in Austin this spring, I found that I had a terrible time trying to guess how much food our three-recycling-bin mini-garden would produce. Certainly not enough food for five people for a season, but for a meal ? Two ? Depends on how much people eat ? I'll have to find out more when I return in August.

Tea and time with friends

There's nothing quite like the flavor of a strawberry that's been in the sun for just the right length of time. On Thursday, Lucia and I went to the Samovar at Yerba Buena, and her meal came with some of those rare strawberries that have been properly solarized. When I tasted one, it woke up the flavor of those long-ago days in the Idaho summer, hot but dry, with a lake nearby and omnipresent firs for shade. That berry, just like the ones from my memory, bridged the seemingly ideological gap between those juicy but flavorless Safeway strawberries and the teensy, seedy sweetness of a rare wild berry from a hike in the forest.

The tea at Samovar is impressive, both in flavor and price. I'd never been there before, but this week found me twice in attendance, both times chatting with friends. On Thursday I spent a wonderful evening downtown with Lucia, and then on Saturday morning I headed to the Castro location on a lark and met up randomly with Joe from school. The magic of San Francisco is partly in the weather that graces the city on weekends like this one just past, but it's also in the friends that you see, serindipitously, walking down the sidewalk on Valencia.

The rest of Saturday continued along the same vein, meeting up with more and more UT folks, culminating with some beers at Zeitgeist. Happily, everyone was dressed for the occasion !

Then, on Sunday, the weekend closed out with a fantastic game of disc golf in the park with Tim. Even though he'd never played with golf discs before, he caught on very quickly, and we both had a great time walking through the woods, catching up on time spent this year in different cities, and making fun of each other's putting.

As time is wont to do, the week has already gotten underway here, with more work and musings about the productivity of those mini-gardens near the cafes. Maybe I'll discover just how they do use them after all.