waiting for Godot and good dirt


I was 18, fueled daily by remarkable impatience, when I read Beckett's masterful play. The professor, a kind woman with dark red hair and a great deal of patience, recommended only this about the presentation I was to give to class: make it original.

Critical commentary on the play tended in one main direction—toward the absurd,  meaningless life shared by these the two men, which is then torn open by the ferocious and pathetic howl of Lucky, man on a leash. Then life subsides back into, well, waiting. Accurate, all of that, but missing a certain point. For me, it was all about the the staging of the bare tree, the main prop in the original set design; its one remaining leaf may symbolize, as much as any other interpretation, what cannot be overlooked—the friendship of Vladimir and Estragon.

This is an admittedly far fetched interpretation of the play (that thumping you hear is Beckett's forehead banging the casket). So what does it have to do with good dirt? Not much, I admit, except for the barest associative leap. I make compost. Yards of the stuff. The three-bin system I built many years ago still efficiently provides great heaps of loose, nutrient rich organic hummus that smells remarkably sweet.

The plants love it. You'll see.

I am engaged in making good dirt every day. Daily, I use the familiar guidelines and set aside chopped veggie material, coffee grounds, etc. I regularly add thin layers of grass clippings (summer), leaves (fall and spring), chopped garden refuse, and more kitchen trimmings. Every month I add high nitrogen chicken droppings and in early spring, I turn it all together with horse manure. Moisten, wait, turn; repeat every 5 days while the heap gets hotter, every 2 weeks after the heat slows down. Done right in a 5'x'5' mesh enclosure and you can make good dirt within 6-8 weeks.


This is how you burn your way to good dirt. It requires daily attentiveness, resources, and some heavy lifting, which includes a willingness to occasionally shovel horseshit. That's a kind of fidelity, and it is richly rewarded. I enjoy the process itself as demonstrative and significant sustainability. I enjoy, on a more physical and sensuous level, the great flavors and nutrition of the garden. This is healthy food. Organic vegetable gardens make sense in every way.

All those years ago, I gave my presentation on Waiting for Godot  and argued for the play's veiled optimism. Now that was original. Let's just say I went out on a limb—and in fact I did, insisting that the remaining leaf on the tree represents aliveness. As long as it's there, we can see these two wretches beneath it as having at least  their friendship while they wait.

So they wait, and so do we. Meanwhile, I make good dirt, which is where the leaf begins. I've been waiting for spring.