Geschichten aus Kalifornien

#morningwalkswithesty - Green Grass

"You like this grass?" I ask my eleven-month-old puppy.

Esty is rolling in the dark green blades, she switches back and forth from her white belly onto her brown-and-white marbled back. Her black snout digs into the dirt.

"Wait a second. Is there something stinky?" I pull the leash

"Don't worry," Esty says. "This is wonderful grass. Wet, juicy, morning grass. You should try it."

"Try what?"

"Smell it. Roll in it. Play with it. Feels good. Smells delicious."

I pull the leash again. I see no poop, no mount of dirt. Just grass. Green grass.

"What's your problem?" Esty asks "Don't be so prissy-sissy!"

She shakes her body. The little heart-shaped tag with her name and my phone number jingles. Dust, dirt, and hair fly into the morning air. Soft sunlight reflects from her velvet cinnamon ears and amber eyes. 

"C'mon baby, let's move on," I say.

"Let's roll in the grass a little longer. Together," she says, her tongue hanging out.

"Maybe tomorrow."

"Yeah, right."

We are on our morning walk through the neighborhood before writing class. Three blocks North and South. Four blocks East and West. The sun reaches just over the roofs, brings light and sun to the sidewalks. Later in the year, we will look for shade. Now, we walk in the sun. I admire the flowers that bloom in front yards: thick pink magnolia blossoms, tender yellow narcissus, and that sexy purple, juicy thing dangling down from a banana plant that just burst, sticky and sweet, yellow flowers inside buzzing with busy bees.

"Get to the yards with grass," Esty says and pulls towards another well-maintained lawn. 

"What a waste of farmland," I hear in my mind the voice of an Asian woman I met a few days ago. She is 83 years old and 5 foot short. She pulls weed as well as she handles a pickax to break up dirt. She spent the first years of her life in an Internment camp in Arizona with nothing but red clay around her and now is a Master Gardener in South LA. 

"Just think about it," she said after I told her I do have a lawn and do not grow edibles on it. "How much water, energy, and time you put into that grass."

"I don't," I said. "It looks terrible. Only dust, dirt, and weeds. That's why the puppy complains and has to go roll on other people's front yards." 

"Good for you," the gardener said. "Better than those people with grassy green yards. Just think about it: they take all that time and energy to water, then the grass grows and gets too high, then they spent lots of energy to mow it, and then, what do they do with their harvest?"

She looked at me, eyebrows high, her body bent like a question mark, waiting for my answer.

I shrugged my shoulders.

"They throw their harvest in the green trash can, that's what they do," she said. "While they could have grown spinach, kale, tomatoes, or my favorite: Japanese mustard."

"Now, that you say it like this, it sounds silly," I said.

"It is ludicrous!" She said and gave me six seedlings for that Japanese mustard in an egg carton.

"It grows like a weed. It is spicy. I use it for my sandwiches and salad. It tastes like wasabi when it's raw. When you cook it, it gets mild."

The seedlings sit on my porch table. I loosened up dirt in the backyard as she told me.

"Don't let them go dry. Water the dirt where you want to plant them for three days," she said. "Stick your finger into it. It has to be wet up to its knuckle, at least two inches."

"Today, we will plant that mustard," I tell Esty. "If it works, we try kale and spinach too."

"Can I roll in it?" she asks.

"No. No rolling in the mustard."

"Is kale juicy? What does spinach smell like?"

"I have no idea. But if we get it, no rolling in that either."

She barks in protest and keeps her belly plated firmly in thick grass when I pull on her leash. 

"How about I make you a patch of fat green grass next to the mustard?"

"Big enough for me to roll over three times and back?"

"Big enough."

"Long enough for bugs and beetles to live there?"

"Long enough."

"Promise?"

"Promise."

She jumps up, shakes her body, the tag jingles, the dirt flies from her coat into the light of the sun.

"I love our morning walks," she says.

"I do too!"

 

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