Backyard Potterer's Diary - July

Written and illustrated by Tiit Kändler
 Translation: Liis
July: the yard of nations
If  silence ever arrives in the yard, then it is in July. The grass grows slowly, so that you cannot even hear it. The flowers in the garden beds have established themselves nicely. Birds bother less and less about singing and stop this entertainment altogether at the end of the month. The berries on the bushes are still quite peaceable, quietly ripening and not nagging about picking. So there is a chance to simply lounge about, on your back, somewhere under the gooseberry bush or in the hammock – observing the clouds.
For some reason such inactive activity is seen as shameful. Whoever can do so – be it in interviews or columns – assures that he or she is certainly busy all the time, be it holiday or work time, state holiday or state everyday. It must be constantly emphasized - I am busy.
But the Backyard Potterer knows that it is possible to be busy without doing anything particular – or, yes, staring at clouds, finding unexpected changing shapes is after all making  physical observations. The clouds are a self-mirroring fractal world and learning to know this world does not need to be restricted to trees and shrubs where the skeleton of the leaf repeats the pattern of the crown. A true bit of work. A proper task.
Clouds are after all part of the yard too, that should not be forgotten. And a part that does not need taking care of. The clouds come to be by themselves, shape themselves, entertain you with their peculiarities, and if they so like, even pour their contents on to you.
Clouds need not be mown or weeded, fertilised or uprooted. Although the wish to do so emerges in humans every now and then  - how to make the clouds give up their rain against the will of the cloud, or instead, how to make the cloud go away with its rain from the yard. In Africa there have been, and in places are still, special rainmakers, rain men, who by their order and the will of the village bring forth rainfalls on the fields. In Western countries aviators, for instance, act as rain men, rocketing into the clouds, spreading some substance there, then hoping that the rain will rain down into the yard. Or contrarily – will not.
Thanks to the clouds it may happen in July that the sun shines from the south again in the evening. The clouds in the south suddenly turn a powerful orange red and paint this across the whole yard. The yard turns red, like the darkroom of the Backyard Potterer’s childhood, when photographs on paper were developed in red light. And then the red under the clouds is garnished with a flash of lightning  like a photo flash; somewhere quite far off, harmless and momentary, it imprints the situation into memory.
So it does pay off to raise one’s nose, and with it eyes and ears, to the sky, to the clouds, occasionally.
From there not only rain, hail and snow fall down but all kinds of radiation too, of which the Backyard Potterer only sees an insignificant portion, the rainbow coloured part. Man’s world of colour is poorer than that of the birds and of bats and of some rodents. And poorer even than that of the reindeer that not only knows how to protect its eyes from the ultraviolet radiation – which is more abundant at the higher northerly latitudes than where we are, and that is reflected from snow and ice. The reindeer even sees this UV radiation – maybe in order to be better able to detect wolves that silently creep in and from whose fur cover this radiation is reflected, or maybe in order to see on the snow the reindeer lichen that swallows this radiation in contrast to the reflecting snow. But maybe simply just so, willy-nilly, for this or that, just for pleasure.
Man, that mercantile being, does his best to saddle animals too with a purposeful mind. If a bird sings, then surely with some specific aim, to establish itself. If a tree grows then surely to become planks and firewood more quickly. And if the cat strays around then surely in order to find mice. But how can we know. Maybe they sing, grow and stray just so, just for the pleasure of it.
If we observe a cat, a tree or a bird we assume that they are still the same, no matter if they grow in Estonia or Russia, in China or Mexico, in Congo or Brazil. We believe that, quite as the physical world is isotropic with regard to time and space – which is why laws of physics are valid everywhere in the Universe that is visible to us, so it is also with the living world.
But is a yard the same yard, be it in Estonia or Belgium, Switzerland or Russia? It is interesting to investigate and quite accessible and inexpensive too – if you when visiting different countries besides bars, cafes, museums and stores also walk and look in parks, avenues, botanical gardens.
The London yard is only unregulated and free superficially, behind this free flow is actually a disciplined pattern achieved during centuries. The Brussels yard generously exhibits nettles, burdocks and other suchlike that in Estonian yards are, if not driven off, then at least certainly shuffled into some corner. The Geneva yard wants to be more than local and so decks itself with alpine plants and does not even disdain from showing hemp and other pleasure-bringing plants. The Copenhagen yard is raked and so seems rather dull to the Backyard Potterer; in contrast in the Gothenburg yard so many garden plants from different countries are pressed into a tiny piece of ground that it seems as if free space in Sweden had run out already in the times of Gustavus Adolphus. The Finland yard has no problems with lack of space, it announces to you – look, a surfeit of space, like gold. The yard of Rome takes pride not so much in its plants as in age-old heaps of stones that it proudly labels as monuments from the Roman Empire, even though no one pottering around in the yard would remember what those looked like when the yards still were in Rome.
But the most unpredictable is doubtless the Russian yard. No wonder really – the spirit of Russia is unpredictable by its nature. So there you come across a yard that overflows like a cabbage plot forgotten ten years ago and where under the apple tree you might as well find a rusty scythe from the time of Czar Nicolai, or the owner sleeping off his after-party fatigue, or a piece from a World War II T-34 tank. And bole-mene, side by side is a yard where not one single little straw of grass would manage to get in between the onion beds, the pot marigold carpets and the cucumber hotbeds.

Yes. But of course above them all is the Estonian Backyard Potterer’s yard where the plants grow as God has made them and where, because of this, at any moment an imaginary piece can be cut out that shows the yard of Geneva as well as Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Italy, Belgium. The Russian yard unheeded .




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