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Monday, September 30, 2002

Is there a difference between being easily amused and difficult to bore? I'm not the only person who enjoys watching a sprinkler (even one that doesn't oscillate), am I? I mean, it has to be operating, water has to be coming out of the little holes, even if it's just spraying in one direction at a time. But still, it's kind of beautiful, isn't it?

Okay, maybe not. But I don't bother trying to water by hand any more, and it's not just because the leaky hose connections soak through my clothes like a fine spring rain. One of the advantages of using a sprinkler is that you don't have to stand outside and direct the spray. You can just set it and walk away (but don't forget to set the timer or you'll leave it in one spot so long the mud starts flowing like lava).

You can set it and walk away, or you can set it and watch the gentle arch of the water as it rises, and the droplets that fall from the leaves of the bushes and trees. I'm not much of a gardener, but this isn't exactly digging in the dirt. It becomes a form of kinetic art, if you look at it with an esthetic eye. The water starts in one place and lands in another, and somehow the area in between gets gradually darker as it absorbs the spray.

Why, I could stand and watch for twenty minutes at a time. That just happens to be the length of time I've determined is best for my particular sprinkler in my particular garden. Other devices and environments will probably vary.

And that's the other side of the equation (you should pardon the non-artistic metaphor). I've made a personal domestic science out of placing the sprinkler just so, to get the maximum benefit with the least amount of actual work. It proves once again (not that you were considering the premise) that art and science are intimate acquaintances.

It's more than that, really. The science that tells me, without measuring or testing, the best way to place and move the sprinkler is drawn directly from the artistic impressions in my brain. Any system that doesn't cover the entire garden with exactly (more or less, I'm no scientist after all) the right amount of water is esthetically defective. The beauty is in the symmetry.

I've tried applying this model to other household chores, but it doesn't seem to be working for me. I can't find anything beautiful about washing dishes or doing laundry. Dishes require too much of my time and attention, and all I want is for them to be done and put away. Laundry goes on in another room, behind closed doors, although the rhythm of a pair of button-fly 501s rolling around in the dryer is kind of musical.

The best part of my latest artistic pursuit is the result. The garden, with all this intense sprinkling, is becoming green again. It's a wonderful thing to stand on my front step and look out and see more green than brown. In this instance, art benefits nature. Beauty begets beauty. I always knew in my heart this was the case, and now I have proof in my own yard.

Pacific Bell Park

Fire department boat in McCovey Cove, Pacific Bell Park, San Francisco.

Meanwhile, and at the far end of the spectrum, I had to dose myself up with every pill in the book (isn't it great pills come in books now?) just to breathe today. Something in the air is causing my chronic sinusitis (with which I was once officially diagnosed) to flare up. What that means is that I get a scratchy throat and watery eyes. My nose is stuffy, except when it's runny. Today all these symptoms added up to a headache. Treated. Relieved. Side effects. Tired. Good night.

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