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Life as Performance Art


The lead character in the musical “Fiddler on the Roof” sings “If I Were a Rich Man.”
A small portion of many of our brains fantasizes what it would be like to be wealthy. We dream of a lawyer telling us some long-lost relative fell of their perch and left us bags of loot. Or one of these days we’ll win a big jackpot on the lottery.
It doesn’t take several hundred million dollars. A measly $2- or $3-million will do it. And if you want to get into the top 5 percent of rich Americans, it only takes an annual income of about $336,000. You break into the top 20 percent at a mere $130,000.
The latter is still more than most of us earn. For some of us, a lot more. It can be demoralizing to know that dream may go unfulfilled.
“Money is mathematics,” a friend told me once. “It’s wealth that counts, and only a portion of that has to do with money. Wealth is attitude.
“Always live under your income. If you spend more than you make,” she went, “you will not remain rich nor again be wealthy.”
One of the first times this came home for me was talking with an obviously poor roadside fruit seller in a third world country. After exchanging l pleasantries, he said, “I am happy today because I am so wealthy. I am above ground, the sun is shining and last night God watered my plants for me.” He was grateful when I bought fruit too.
A year or two later I saw a starving-artist type bubbling because she was so wealthy. She pointed out the warm spring weather, birds in trees, green grass and said a friend leaving town for a few days had brought her all of the leftovers in her refrigerator. Wealth, for her, was the generosity of the world around.
In “Titlark Song” Bernard Miles portrayed a poor farmer who would rather fish when the trout were rising than anything else. We all have a few friends like that there can be a serenity about them.
Marc Diacano writes in Country Life magazine about how Bette Midler had become his gardening spiritual guru. Apparently the singer had had an epiphany discovering joys of composting her own materials.
He decided to try it too. No more just throwing old cauliflower leaves or wilted lettuce on dead tree leaves and hoping for the best.
Diacano worked at it, mixing green stuff, brown stuff and kitchen waste, and found spiritual joy in his labors. He liked the results too and has continued making compost for a decade, steadily adding more to his flower beds.
I am a composter too. Pat and I have an out of sight space where I pile tree leaves at the end of fall. Grass clippings get added during the summer as do kitchen vegetable scraps and coffee grounds. The red worms love them, munching their way through the rest of the stuff as well, plus adding to the brown stuff with their “casings.”
Every week or so I turn some of it over with a garden fork. If the pile smells like I am standing downwind from a cattle barn, I run my rototiller through it to give it fresh air.
One time I turned the pile, lit my pipe, tossed the match. Moses might have appreciated the pillar of methane fire that rose when the Israelites were in the wilderness.
At the end of the season I’ve got half a ton of compost and stories to go with it. Now, that’s wealth.
The 10 and 5-percenters on the income spectrum often put out good money to buy their compost. Not just any compost, mind you. They want stuff that comes directly from barns and compost piles of the stately homes in England. It’s more posh than the homemade stuff.
Want to buy a 3-pound bag of compost from Althorp Estate, home of Princess Di? It will set you back a mere $20, plus shipping and handling of course. The stuff from Highclere Castle (Downton Abbey) is even more pricey.
Or go all the way and buy compost from any Duchy of Cornwall farm. That’s top of the line because the property is owned by King Charles III.
Imagine the pleasure folks can have boasting to friends, “The blooms look so good because they are potted in barnyard organic fertilizer from a genuine English Ccountry home.”
Meanwhile, Flamingo Estates in California cropped a winner when they advertised their 8-pound bags ($70 each) in Gwyneth Patrow’s holiday shopping catalog for Goop products. Now there’s bragging rights. “We bought it when Gwyneth put us on to it, so we wouldn’t want to be left out like some others I could mention.”
I don’t need to buy pink avian poop in bags. We settle for good old pigeon droppings that a friend of a friend gives away.

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