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February 1st, 2003

garden show

I made a fairly early start to work and got in the mini-van I'm borrowing from my brother and his wife while my car is getting long-overdue body work done. I punched the radio over to AM, and as if by a miracle, my favorite garden program was on. I love AM radio garden programs, because on the radio ordinary people from suburbs and towns with names like Mesquite or Scurry phone in to discuss yaupon holly bushes and osage orange trees. In quiet, friendly tones the host and the callers discuss the problems of our difficult clay soil, weather extremes, and the fact that some things grow here quite well, while a much longer list of things won't grow well here at all. The whole enterprise is so down to earth, and the garden hosts are so practical, that I always feel as though I'm connecting to some facet of my life in which I no longer live, but should. Today, though, the radio host quickly advised me that we were going to switch to CNN for a while. I braced for the worst. Sure enough, the news informed me that the space shuttle Columbia was lost on its re-entry into earth's atmosphere over the skies of north Texas. When the covergae reverted to local coverage, the news featured north Texans all the way from my area down to eighty miles south of here, from towns with names like Corsicana and Palestine, describing what they had seen and heard. The ordinary people talk about gardens morning tone turned into an "ordinary people talk about disaster". I was struck by one man, from Palestine, which is apparently quite close to a critical place. He had heard the sound and seen some of the trail and debris. They asked him what it was like. He said it was "like the sound of a tornado, if you know what that sound is like".
I know the sight and sound of a tornado, and I understood that for him, the only way to describe one tragedy was by describing another tragedy.