My work often intersects with the zeitgeist, maybe because the social foxhole I've dug while writing my dissertation has obscured my view. I grapple with 18th and 19th-century metaphors of food production, and I tend to draw these images forward into our current ideological climate. Gardens gardens everywhere, and not a spot to dig.
The earliest literature I examine is from the 17th century; Milton's Paradise Lost sets the stage for much of what follows in the 19th-century Romantic period. I think that the poem's depiction of the expulsion from the Garden of Eden set off a chain reaction of empty gardens in our literature that extends all the way to the pictures on cartons of organic milk that I see at Whole Foods.
But the first empty garden I can remember thinking about comes from my own puberty. I was 12 years old when this song was released, and I was deeply moved by its chorus. When I rediscovered Wordsworth in my late twenties, I realized that the conceit of artist as gardener is much, much older than Elton John.
Commemorating the day of a death seems morbid, but martyrs are partly defined by the ways in which a culture extracts their sacrifice. Dying wasn't John Lennon's choice, any more than it was Martin's or Malcom's or Bobby's. But his message made him a target, and his loss defined a decade. Watching my mother sobbing in the car when the news came across the radio certainly marked a transition in my childhood. I already knew that art was precious, but December 8th, 1980 taught me that its loss could be devastating.
Today, I'm going to listen to Rubber Soul and Revolver while I read about farm size in 1797. And when I take a break to kit up and ride--alone, so far away from the gardens of California I grew to treasure and now so dearly miss--I'll listen to the homage to domestic tranquility that John Lennon wrote before he died.