Primordial Goo

Spiritual Smart Aleck


If you are a regular reader of this column, you might have noticed that I like to spend time on my kitchen porch.

It is my form of meditation. I sit there watching the trees sway in the breeze, and the birds duking it out over the suet cakes and the bird seed. It is a quiet and lovely place to sit and not think.

“Your little slice of heaven,” a friend called it, and so it is.

About a week ago I went out to enjoy quiet time. I saw the trees, I heard the birds, and I smelled … ew. What was that? A whiff of something not pleasant.

I looked around to see if there was anything in sight to which I could attribute this odor. I couldn’t see anything. I wondered if one of the neighbors had brought home some compost from the tofu factory – that stuff is certainly rich with nutrients, if you know what I mean.
Well, I figured it would pass.

But it didn’t. Day by day the odor became worse.

Today I walked out on the porch and nearly staggered when I hit the stank. Oh my gosh.
I finally realized that it seemed to be coming from under the porch.

Did something die under there? But it didn’t smell like something dead. I know the smell of decomposition. There is the regular pong of dead deer along island roads. These poor deer were hit by cars and got off the road and into the underbrush, but not very far. Drive around on a warm summer day with your windows down and you might catch, or be caught by, the smell of one of these works in progress.

So, it did not smell like something had died. It had a sweetish tang to it, but still was strong enough to, as the late, much lamented cartoonist John Callahan would say, knock a buzzard off a s— wagon.

Near as I could tell it was under the porch.

In order to look under the porch I would have to do some physical bending and twisting which does not come easily to me anymore, not to mention moving several items – vegetation, empty pots, miscellaneous unknown objects that have disappeared over the side of the porch into the summer foliage, and so on.

On the other hand, isn’t it better to know, than not? Maybe I could find it and fix it.

So, I put on my gardening shoes (size 10, Granny’s, many years ago when they were still down at the Nike site) and my gardening gloves (a much-appreciated gift from my neighbor Caitlin. Who knew what I might have to grab?) and set out to see if I could solve this mystery.

I went to the south side of the porch first because it was less obscured than the north side. I found a brass hose nozzle, a circular lawn sprinkler, and a weeding tool, all things that had fallen on that side. Of course, I could not get to them until I ripped out the morning glory that was wrapped around the various tools leaning against the wall there.

Digression: you garden and horticulture types probably know this, but it was only a few days ago that I noticed that morning glory curls counterclockwise as it covers the world. Again, I am so grateful to be learning something new at my age, and again, I wonder why it took me so long to notice.

Anyway – I looked under the porch. I could not see much, but I did not see anything dead or alive under there.

Went around to the north side of the porch and began pushing foliage aside so I could look under the porch. First thing I came to under the bush was a bowl of water. It had an oily slick on top, and was bubbling, and it smelled terrible.

Eureka. I tipped the bowl over, dumping whatever was inside. First, the water, and then, what looked like slimy, sandy mud. A wave of the nauseating smell rose up from the flow. Ugh.
Yup, that was the problem.

Within minutes the kitchen porch was habitable again.

There have been a few times in my life when I have encountered stinky mud and water, so I looked up the phenomenon. In this case, from what I read, I believe that there were some anaerobic bacteria kicking butt and taking names in that bowl.

Maybe if I’d left it there for a few billion years, new life would have risen out of that bowl. But I couldn’t wait. That’s human beings for you. Always in a hurry.