His editor sends him a note, “So when can we expect another column?” but when he looks in the mirror nobody’s there. His pantry of ideas is bare, not even a jar of sweet pickles. He has been writing a garden column (garden ought to be in quotes) for how many years? Seventeen? What can he say that he hasn’t said before? Of course longevity is a topic in itself, but saying the word just about exhausts its potential.
A disclaimer: Faro doesn’t hold in high regard art that is parasitic on itself: poets writing about writing a poem or being unable to, novels with a brilliant novelist at the center, plays about the theatre. Nor is he partial to memoirs of anyone below the age of thirty-five. So, except for this last, he is guilty of doing what he dismisses as unworthy, and you, dear reader, might look for something more illuminating to do this fine morning while Faro goes on a walk in search of an idea.
He puts on his walking shoes despite what this morning’s “Peace Quote” from the monastery, freshly nested in his inbox, advises:
You do not need to leave your room.
Remain sitting at your table and listen.
Do not even listen. Simply wait.
Be quiet, still and solitary.
The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked.
It has no choice. It will roll in ecstasy at your feet.
——The author, Franz Kafka. Hmmm.
In the city the gardens that are most readily unmasked are sidewalk plantings. Here civilization meets its raging discontents. What is the perfect street tree? The investigation is endless. Groundcover presents another perpetual conundrum. Gravel is popular though has a wayward nature. River rock is pretty and an invitaion to future fastballers. (Maybe only former fastballers like himself; maybe Faro is paranoid about his fellows.)
One idea he discarded long ago was to do a survey of the manifold ways hopeful sidewalk gardeners have in expressing NO NOT HERE!!! The signage, no matter how many exclamation points, does not merit an A-plus for efficacy. Not all dogs are literate. What works better than words and verboten symbols is a barrier. Small bamboo fences, handcrafted, are adequate, if temporary. The temporality of street plantings is a given so there’s a kind of match.
On today’s walk he discovers an example of a lately popular solution: a cutout square of plastic grass collaring a ‘Little Gem’ magnolia, bordered by brick three high. Plop upon the pristine pseudo-grass is a ziploc bag and Fido’s after-breakfast deposit, partially within the bag and partially not.
For sure Faro decides he doesn’t want to write about sidewalk gardens, no matter how worthy, ecologically sound and neighborhood-friendly they are. Then around the corner, without any foreshadowing, customary with its usual delivery system, inspiration hits. It’s a fact he doesn’t want to write about dogs either, but what about his dog? In all those seventeen years of columns he has not written about his darling dog. Does he not have a pet? Only curmudgeons don’t have pets. So he will write about his dog, Thutmose IV, also known as Franz, or maybe the dog he doesn’t have, the one that rolls in ecstasy at his feet.