Wednesday, April 18, 2012

How inner conflict makes dullards of us all

r something like that. Having never read Chekov previously and also having no historical context for his writing, what follows is an entirely off-the-cuff stream of thoughts relating to the short novel, The Duel (translated by Constance Garnett, as recommended by Hemingway).

On the surface, this seems to be a story about a bunch of locals with nothing better to do than squabble and moralise at each other. Since all they have are their own experiences and opinions and lack much depth, they are not terribly interesting or sustainable characters, but their observations of each other carry some weight to the reader.

Instead of just taking the situation at face value, it's also possible to see the conflict as a metaphor for the conflict within an individual. In particular, the two gentlemen who wind up dueling, Laevsky and Von Koren, might be representative of the conflicting aspects of a personality, two ways in which to react to the surrounding world. Both consider society to be broken and useless. Laevksy chooses to spend his life full of apathy and regret, avoiding engagement, while Von Koren displays aggression towards others in a misconstrued attempt to bring them around to his philosophy, and also toward himself in order to maintain his prescription of action.

By the time the characters reach the grounds of the duel, they have both lost their motivation and aggression and decide not to follow through. They are the dueling aspects of a personality: at great odds with each other right up until the critical point, when nothing comes of the whole business (and the deacon steps in! Don't get me started on spirituality). They continue on their paths and gradually make some changes in their lives, but the grand, driving force of pure dogmatism has disappeared.

So I suppose the lesson I took from this was that holding your ground and acting on/being true to your character is important to maintaining an identity and strong progression through life. Don't stand still or get lost in internal debate, but use conflict to come to new places in thought and in life. Or something like that.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Garden Variety Anxiety

uch to my dismay, Twitter has trained me to only have witty, entertaining thoughts in 140 character spans. This makes writing blog posts a humorless and rambly process, especially if I don't crank out a post immediately when inspiration strikes (whaBAM).

So now here I am, three weeks after starting an ambitious yard rehabilitation project (it's impossible to phrase that in any clever or alliterative manner. Cookie to anyone who can) trying to remember what I wanted to say about it.

I guess the first thing would be "hire a dang landscaper with a backhoe," if you can. The yard I'm working with is (according to 0.13 acres, maybe half of it taken up by the house, but with a good sized front yard and considerable backyard. When we moved in, all but maybe, maybe 20% of the backyard was either underwater or overgrown. I wouldn't want to lose the topsoil by having heavy machinery rip out the overgrowth, but regrading would be easier, nay-doable with something more efficient than a shovel.

del ray, alexandria, yard, flooding, overgrown, landscapingdel ray, alexandria, yard, flooding, overgrown, landscaping

Anyway, having thrown my back out doing too much of that by hand (and the upcoming birthday doesn't make me feel younger, either), I'm going to wait for it to actually rain again before reevaluating the drainage situation. I improvised a rain garden with existing daylilies and added irises, bee balm and a willow stick which will hopefully sprout (they always do when I don't want them to...) and a little slope and dip for water to accumulate in.

del ray, alexandria, yard, flooding, overgrown, landscapingdel ray, alexandria, yard, flooding, rain garden, permeability, overgrown, landscaping

Mostly, the rest of the work is ripping out vines (english ivy, poison ivy, virginia creeper, roses, that variegated purple flowering thing and whatever else) and hopefully getting grass to grow. The new lawn needs to be tilled and aerated, but there are so many roots and bricks (which is great, I'm planning a patio, too, but at 30+ bricks randomly strewn around the yard under the grass...) I'm not sure a rototiller is a good idea.  So for the moment, turning over a new garden bed, an existing one and getting my seedlings in will take top priority.

seedlings, indoors, transplant, Virginia, Alexandria, Johnny's

After all of that, I'm (understandably, I hope) anxious about getting everything to grow. The addition of (free!) composted horse manure that I lugged up from Lorton (yes, by myself, in contractor bags, in my little honda) should be enough to improve the soil and feed the plants. For exciting realtime updates, just follow the hashtag: #gardenvarietyanxiety. 1

1. Note that because twitter is stupid, the hashtag isn't searchable. Yet.