It’s not unusual for me to have ambitions that are way over my head, and that’s okay as long as these ideas are tempered with the cooling waters of self doubt. I took it upon myself to turn off the tank valve and dismount my apartment’s emptied toilet, after I flushed the 1-1/2 inch cap to the kitchen sinks’ p-valve (which was at the bottom of a bucket of very discoloured liquid plumber infused water). I asked my neighbour to, “leave it to me to snake the sink, I’ll feel empowered by the experience.”  As I lifted the toilet off its mount, a pipe burst. Have you ever seen this happen? I hadn’t. If I were to turn both taps in my bathroom to full blast, that would not equal the volume and pressure this pipe was providing without a hint of relent. Do you know where the main water shut off valve is for your building? Find out right now, you’ll never regret knowing. After a number of tries I got a hold of my land lord (it’s important to note that I am especially hard on phones and just got one that’s waterproof, or this connection would have been impossible). She tried to explain where the the water shut off valve is in the always-creepy-now-with-water-gushing-through-the-low-ceiling-basement . I could not find it, because it was under some boards and half under the raised floor of a front room I’ve been in twice in two and a half years.

When she arrived and shut down the water I had unscrewed a hollow broom handle and was using my hand as a join to deflect the water off  a laundry soap jug opening, then into the toilet drain. My hands were numb for about two hours afterward. But she (who was to dinner with friends) and my downstairs neighbour (who was in St. Andrews picking out a puppy) helped to dry things up and repair the pipe. I guess it was fit to burst anyway. Making big mistakes and then fixing them (with the help of others) is a great way to remember what’s the big deal about life.

When I’m not working or trying to do my own plumbing, I garden and try to learn Italian.

Here’s my garden as of today: Mint, Garlic, a stone that looks like me if I were a stone, a ceramic tree. Not pictured: many other perennials, some pea sprouts, a moved shed (with a luxurious cement slab), and the rest of the Southend Community Garden, complete with new fencing (Thank you P.U.L.S.E)

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I’m about to try Michel Thomas’ methods of teaching Italian. He was a Master of Languages (check out this documentary on his methods). One of his ideas is: people do not forget things, they put things between the memory and their thoughts, but the memory is always there. His students praise his ability to grow a language in their brain without the use of homework or memorization. You can see they have a deep respect for him. I think he breaks down languages into consumable facts and presents them piece by piece coupled with questions that dredge out what the student knows and doesn’t, then he helps them know.

In the documentary, one student says, “Michel Thomas may not know what the truth is, but he can tell when he isn’t being given it.” People lie (even to themselves) to protect themselves or to protect others, either way, it’s a denial of learning what ever is the truth. Give people an environment where they can be comfortable and get out of their own way, then they will open their brain, learn. Thomas  created a formula to enact this circumstance.

That’s the earmark of a serious teacher. Get things out of the way of learning so the student can make the connections they need to understand. I think gardening is like that, and food, and being human….but maybe not home repair.

What is it when you think you know something, then you give it a try and discover that you have no idea what you are doing? I did the same thing with rice crispy squares. I felt I knew how to make them, but that was just a feeling.  I didn’t know and I made something that I could only feed to peckish adolescents. Knowing is not the same as remembering. One is a feeling and one is a fact. I now remember where the water shut off valve is, and what can happen if I try to do home repairs with only partial knowledge (I didn’t know, I felt like I knew). But anyway, I can’t remember Italian because I never knew. So, now it’s time to learn.

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