A Garden Shunned

Long, cool shadows covered most of my garden. I stopped hoeing the weedy pathway for a moment to rest. My daughter Tammie, sitting in a red chair next to my garden’s tea table, looked up from reading and asked, “Why don’t you let me hoe for a little while?”

Responding indignantly, I exclaimed, “No! You are visiting me and I will not put you to work! I love your company, though, and enjoy hearing the interesting things you share from the article you’re reading.

Sighing, Tammie admitted, “I wish I could help you, but realize it takes me so long to do things, it probably is easier for you to just do it yourself.”

I reiterated, “I love having you with me. If the mosquitos aren’t bothering you, all I want is for you to sit and keep me company.”

Glancing over her shoulder at the western horizon, my daughter commented, “I love these long days. The sun is still above the trees across the road. It’ll still be light when it’s 9 pm.”

Sitting down on a garden stool next to vigorously growing onion sets, I agreed, “I love these long days at the end of June, too. We have at least four more hours of light today yet. There’ve been many a June evening that I’ve worked in the garden until eight-thirty.”

Leaning forward, I began to pull small weeds from around onion greens. They pulled out easyily and the clear ground made the month-old plants look large and healthy. I commented wonderingly, “It’s strange, but I get so much more satisfaction from weeding than harvesting.”

Looking beyond me, Tammie quietly alerted, “Mom, look. That stray, dark brown tabby we often see around the yard has come into the hoop building.”

I turned to look. The sleek, feral cat was doing well for himself. His body was muscular and he walked with confidence like a much larger jungle cat. Seeing a bird in one of the rows, he lowered and slinked forward. Spotting the cat, the bird flew to the plastic ceiling, bumping into it recklessly. In its fright, it had forgotten how to get out of the building.

I shouted loudly, “We don’t want you in here. Leave the bird alone, he’s not going to be your supper tonight.” The cat turned, looked disdainfully at me, and stalked out. Crisis avoided, I returned to my job.

Alternating between hoeing and sitting on the stool to weed around plants, I felt happy. My hoop building garden felt cozy and I was having a good time. When I started to feel tired, I knew it was time to quit for the day. I pointed out to my daughter, “Look at the young plants, don’t they look beautiful? They’re growing fast because they don’t have weeds around their knees to hinder them.”

I always intend to work several hours each week in the garden. But in July, a wave of high heat and humidity descended on Central Wisconsin. I don’t do well in heat, so I didn’t work in the garden. The few times the weather was nicer, I was busy or away from home.

In August my left knee hurt so badly I didn’t want to work in the garden. I complained to my daughter, “Even though the garden looked so nice at the end of June, it’s a weedy mess now!”

Tammie consoled, “You always say your garden gets weedy in August.”

I responded with exasperation, “It did, but only because I was busy harvesting and storing the vegetables!”

Shamed by how bad my garden looked, one day I determined it was finally time for me to get back to work. Putting on work gloves, I began digging a hole to bury kitchen scraps. Before I could finish, a large insect rose up from a nearby bank of weeds and stung my index finger through my glove. The pain was deep and mind-bending, like having a root canal without novocaine

Running to the house, I rubbed cortisone on the finger and iced it. Later that evening, it was still throbbing. By then the entire hand was red, swollen, and itched in a way no amount of scratching could relieve.

Feeling sorry for myself, I whined to my daughter that evening, “The garden didn’t like being shunned in favor of my comfort this summer. When I was out there today, it sent a wasp to sting me.”

Tammie responded with an indignant tone of voice, “That naughty garden!”


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