by guest contributor Genevieve Victoria Casale Johnson
[For the second installment in this series of responses composed by collaborators and friends, Genevieve Victoria Casale Johnson engages in an associative/expressionistic meditation on “Reuptake,” the opening track to Blind Pelican’s Let the Sun Take the Blame (as well as a corresponding namesake single), a song I wrote pre-pandemic about the dissonance emergent from missing people who I might never see again while simultaneously experiencing the low-grade animal bliss of sunlight warm against my body. (Perhaps fittingly, the choruses are sung by Ben Trickey, songwriting extraordinaire and ages-old friend who I have not seen in more years than I care to count.) Given that Genevieve is my long-time domestic- and creative-partner, it probably comes as no surprise that she had a hand in composing this song (in fact, one of Genevieve’s early vocal melodies from “Reuptake” was later reinterpreted by The Plaster Cramp as “Pella’s V. Occultation,” Genevieve being the eponymous V. cited in so many Plaster Cramp titles). It was an immense pleasure working with Genevieve on this/these song(s), and doubly so to observe and assist as she composed this response that is very much shaped by the iconography of our home, from the gardens we’ve planted to our nests on the sun porch to the nose-to-nose half-asleep silence that speaks stronger of affection than any known words. — DWM]
It’s too cold and too early to write this on the sun porch as I’d intended. So I found a sunbeam in our bedroom to curl up in, 12 feet above and 12 feet behind the corner of the house I think of when I hear “Reuptake.” But conditions are similar. The snowmelt off the roof keeps catching my eye. We got an inch or two of snow last night that likely won’t make it through the afternoon. The sun is getting stronger each day.
This week I’ll start seeds in the basement beneath the UV glow of a grow lamp and by the end of the month, I’ll bring them up to live on the sun porch, introduce their cotyledons to a second kind of light. These three walls of glass will heat the room up into the mid-80s on sunny days and in the evenings we hope it will hold in the upper-40s. I’ll put heat mats under the more tender starts to keep them from dropping below 60.
I catch sight of the witch hazel through the melt-splashed panes of glass, scraggly neon yellow petals held by burgundy bracts on a twisting shrub that has been broken and taped back together how many times now? Until we planted it here. In the circle garden. At our home at the corner of Central and Nye. It reaches out no higher than two feet, a wide Y stretching where it can. This year it bloomed on February 4th. January 31st last year. January 26th before that. This harbinger of life seemingly out of synch with the rest of the garden. It pulled me out this year. Remember how I was searching for the first signs of a bud opening at the end of January? You would tell me it was coming. And we would check again in the mornings. When the first petal weaseled itself out of the barely separating bud, I called it.
—“It’s blooming,” you reminded me.
And the light got a little stronger each day.
And after pruning in the orchard, we catnapped on the sun porch until the sun dipped behind Cindy’s house kitty-corner from our own, nuzzling into each other until it was too cold to bear then herding the cat back inside to close down the porch for the night.
Even without my glasses on, I can see the girdles and thick bark-scars on the witch hazel from its previous lives on Brackett Street and at the Black Lodge. And I can see, too, a haze of color against the snow punctuated by the rhythm of melt past the window. Electric yellow unfolding from burgundy. A snippet of glorious life in mud season.
Genevieve Victoria Casale Johnson weaves together education and agroecology with art and design. She curates multi-genre events, leads intergenerational play programs, and creates meals that evoke deep conversations. Sometimes she stitches tiny pants for tiny people. Sometimes she makes infinitesimal donuts with friends. And sometimes she tends a subterranean garden with her house spouse.