“Attic Salt” column for Nov. 18, 2012

I’m in the first hours of withdrawal from why Mitt Romney lost the presidential election, why schools fail, why senseless shootings outnumber sensible shootings, and what the president’s re-election means to Obamacare, the economy and cooperation between Republicans and Democrats.

For the first hours of vacation, I am troubled by not being able to attribute the cause of my jitters to anything.

We spend months KNOWING why we feel awful only to suddenly know only the sound of a breeze in lakeside trees, a blue sky and the sounds of other vacationers going about the business of decompressing.

My wife and I spent some time among the Lake People, not true vacationers but people who divide their time between houses where they live and houses where they cut grass.

Other Lake People live here year-round. You know their houses because these lake residents don’t spend as much time outdoors as the vacationers. They have the outdoors all the time.

We occasional visitors must decide how to divide our time. That’s easy for me because there is a garden plot to work.

This is a garden I lavish time and sweat upon for the short time I’m here two or three times a year. The rest of the year, the garden must fend for itself.

I attempt a self-sustaining garden because I’ve known absentee gardeners over the years and know that there was a time when gardens and farms made it on rainfall alone.

At home, I water more than is necessary. I follow the rule of watering infrequently but deeply and still water too much.

This lakeside garden is watered by rain falling from the sky and sliding off the slightly tilted roof of an equipment shed.

Last year, the garden produced a bumper crop of snow peas, shallots, lettuce and zinnias. A rosemary has survived one of the state’s most severe droughts though thyme and annuals didn’t.

When we arrived at the northern end of Toledo Bend just before the nights that saw the fall’s first sub-40 degree nights, the zinnias were tall, covered with blooms. The blooms were covered with butterflies.

Basil flowers were gone, their gray-brown seed holders empty. Enough seed dropped to make planting basil next spring unnecessary. I cut the basil bushes down by two-thirds to encourage the last green basil leaves to try for Thanksgiving.

A warm sun on my back, I worked in chilly air to transplant pansies and sets of romaine lettuce. Because I am an optimist, I soaked parsley and cilantro seed and sowed the seed in well-turned dirt, along with Swiss chard.

I came late to an appreciation of Swiss chard. I couldn’t find the kind with stems of neon orange, yellow and red so I planted seed.

We won’t be at this house by the lake at Thanksgiving, but other people will. Lake house dwellers I hope will find the makings for a salad and cut flowers for the dinner table.

They may express thanks for a garden that, unlike other things in modern life, takes care of itself.