Saturday, April 16, 2016

Setting Up

I've had a couple of days to work on a bunch of projects around the yard, and I think I nailed it.  More or less.

I put in beets, carrots, kale and potatoes.  And weeded almost all of the garden beds.  Whew.  (Yes, it took a while.)

I also set up a potato tower.  It looks like so.

Except that now it has compost and dirt and sprouted seed potatoes in it.

Basically, you add the side boards as the plants grow, so that the potato plants stay covered with dirt and potatoes grow the way they're supposed to.

I'm testing it out to see if it works.  I also put some potato plants in one of my raised beds, to see if that will work.  I'm going to see which system works better, and take it from there.

Of course, if the tower idea is a bust, I'm not sure what I'm going to do with said tower, but I figured I'll deal with that when the time comes.  I'm reasonably optimistic I can get it right.

My only concern is, it's still pretty early in the season, so I have to keep my fingers crossed there isn't another frost.  But even if there is, I still have a box of seed potatoes sprouting, so I can regroup.

I planted tomatoes and broccoli in pots indoors.  I'm using seeds harvested from last year's batch of tomatoes--again, I don't know if that will work, but I have time to try it and see.

This year, I'm going to bypass the whole black walnut fiasco of years past (I hope) by attempting to grow tomato plants in grow bags.  I'll post photos (I'm sure) when I get them set up, assuming my tomato plants grow.

I also put in a Cleveland flowering pear tree, since I had to have a small evergreen tree removed from the yard (it had a blight and looked pretty pitiful).  So this is the new tree.

Word on the street is, these are pretty easy trees to maintain: fast-growing and prone to very few pests.  They get about 30-40 ft. tall, so they're good for small or medium-sized yards (which is what I have).

They produce very pretty white flowers in the spring and have a compact shape so that's also a plus.

Perhaps most importantly, it was on sale, so I got it for $20.  This may be telling me something--like, "you get what you pay for"--but I'm going to hope it's just one of those wonderful little bargains life throws our way every now and again.

Like the time I bought a box of "marigold mix"--one of those huge boxes of marigold seeds that you see at places like Kmart or wherever (I got mine at Benny's)--for $1.

Yes, you saw that right and no, it's not a typo.  It was mid-summer and it was on sale for $1., so I bought it, brought it home and sprinkled it in a garden bed under a tree.

I had the nicest marigolds ever.  My neighbors even complimented me on how well they looked.  And of course I told them I got them for $1.  And my neighbor said, "Best dollar you ever spent!" so that pretty much tells you how nice they were.

Needless to say, I'm beat after a day of gardening.  I'm in the midst of a large spate of grading as well, and I'm also trying to write up a fellowship application.  All of this will get done, obviously, but it's keeping me quite busy.

My current reading is a book by Korean American writer Kim Ronyoung, Clay Walls (1987).  It's been sitting in my Kindle for a while, so I started it the other night, and I'm enjoying it quite a bit. 

For now, though, it's time to get back to the grading.  After some dinner.

Monday, April 11, 2016

True and Truthful

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I've been reading Charlotte Delbo's Auschwitz and After.  As I also mentioned in an earlier post, it's not an easy read.  For a lot of reasons.

When Charlotte Delbo returned to France in 1946, after surviving for fifteen months in the concentration camps of Auschwitz, Raisko, and Ravensbrück, she wrote Aucun de nous ne reviendra (None of Us Will Return). Upon completing this work, which would eventually become the first volume in her trilogy, Auschwitz et après (Auschwitz and After), Delbo put the text aside until 1965, when she finally agreed to its publication. Delbo claimed that her silence stemmed from an aesthetic concern: she wanted to see whether her work could “stand the test of time.”

Delbo's memoir is not as well known as the works of other Auschwitz survivors such as Elie Wiesel and Primo Levi. Some scholars have speculated that this is perhaps because of the style of her writing and because of the ways in which Auschwitz and After raises the inherent problem of representing the unspeakable atrocities that Delbo witness.

Delbo was a member of the French Resistance. In March, 1942, she and her husband, Georges Dudach were arrested in Paris for distributing anti-Nazi pamphlets and reading material.  Dudach was executed by firing squad on the morning of May 23rd: Delbo saw him briefly beforehand when he was allowed to say goodbye to her.

Delbo remained in prison until January of 1943, when she and a convoy of 239 other women were transported to Auschwitz-Birkenau.  They were the only convoy of female members of the French Resistance ever sent to Auschwitz, and of the 239, only 49 returned. Delbo was eventually moved to a satellite camp at Raisko, where conditions were slightly better, and then to Ravensbruck.  She was finally released to the Swedish Red Cross in 1945.

Delbo was acutely aware of her role as a voice for those who were silenced—specifically, those who “would not return” from the Nazi concentration camps of the Holocaust. In her memoir, Delbo seeks to construct a poetic voice that is simultaneously personal and political in order to “show” her readers what she witnessed and endured in Auschwitz and afterward.

Delbo’s description of an early-morning roll call in Auschwitz highlights a problem of representing the traumas she witnessed and endured:
I am standing amid my comrades and I think to myself that if I ever return and will want to explain the inexplicable, I shall say, “I was saying to myself: you must stay standing through roll call. You must get through one more day.  It is because you got through today that you will return one day, if you ever return.” This is not so.  Actually I did not say anything to myself. I thought of nothing.  …if the women who died had required those who returned to account for what had taken place, they would be unable to do so.  I thought of nothing.  I felt nothing.  I was a skeleton of cold, with cold blowing through all the crevices in between a skeleton’s ribs. (Auschwitz and After, 64)
Delbo repeatedly insisted, “They must be made to see” («Il faut donner à voir»), a statement of aesthetic and ethical purpose that conceives of her traumatic witnessing as the construction of a lens on the past. Representing herself as "a skeleton of cold, with cold blowing through all the crevices in between a skeleton’s ribs," Delbo reflects on the experience of past and present—of “then” vs. “now”—as a paradoxical voicelessness. She wants to represent herself as capable of explaining the inexplicable in terms of human resilience, both then and now, but she cannot.

Even as she tries “to account for what had taken place”—to offer her own requiem for the millions who died—Delbo inscribes her inability to do so within the text itself. She often resorts to paradoxes, noting as an epigraph to None of Us Will Return, "I am not sure that what I wrote is true, but I am certain that it is truthful."