No, I don’t want to talk about the excellent thriller by John le Carre, author of cold war classics like Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and The Russia House.
I want to talk about actual gardening.
I love gardening. I love watching gardening shows and reading gardening books. At every opportunity, I stroll through other people’s gardens, admiring textures and colors, scents and arrays. I talk to master gardeners. I read our community newsletter’s gardening column every month.
I own four different kinds of trowels.
So three years ago, when I was feeling flush and a drought was on, we hired a landscape company to come rip the St. Augustine out of our postage stamp-sized front yard and put in Texas natives. The designer installed a river rock bed and heaped loads of weed suppressant and mulch around the skullcap and pigeonberry, the Pride of Barbados and the hummingbird bushes.
“Remember,” he said to me before driving off, “each year is different. In the first year, the plants will sleep. The second year, they’ll creep. The third year, they’ll leap.”
At “leap,” he made a pouncing motion with his hand contorted into a claw. I was to remember that pounce — and that claw — recently one sunny weekend when I stepped off my front porch and into a jungle.
True, it had been five weeks since I’d mowed the city right-of-way or wielded the weed eater at the large rocks we’d placed along the street. True, it was late spring in Houston, and we’d had about fifteen inches of rain. And it’s true that I had let the lovely evening primrose run wild across the mulch because I love all the pink blooms. And yes, that nice wallow-looking spot over by the yellow bulbine could be where the neighborhood Muscovy ducks have been spending their evenings. Or hatching eggs. Who knows.
I love gardening, I thought as I got out the weed whacker and waded in.
I hate gardening, I thought four hours later as I stood on one foot in the shower, prying the last of the biting ants from my ankle.
Then I thought of our neighbor, Lynda, who has a gorgeous garden. When Dear Him and I take our evening walk, we often see her kneeling next to her plants, floppy hat drooping artfully over her impeccably made-up face, a sturdy trowel clutched determinedly in her designer gardening-gloved hand. She always has a cheerful smile and a wave for us; all her plants nod and bow in greeting with her.
And then, the probably-obvious-to-you-Gentle-Reader moment occurred a little later while I scraped cat poo from my docksiders: I don’t actually like gardening all that much. At least, not in bulk.
Because the truth is, if I truly loved gardening, I’d be like Lynda, out there every day or every other day, digging and prodding and mulching and clipping.
Instead, I binge-garden, mostly out of guilt.
This is perhaps not the most effective way of getting gardening done.
I love the idea of gardening more than the actual doing of the gardening.
And yet… I sometimes treat the writing in exactly the same way. I say I want to write. I read books on writing and take classes on writing. I plan my writing meticulously. I meet with other writers to talk about writing, and yet… Do I actually take the time each day to just… you know… write a little? To keep the weeds down and the plants trimmed, as it were? Or do I procrastinate and then binge-write just before a deadline of some sort wallops me and I’m tempted to pull out a dog-ate-my-homework excuse?
So this morning I went out with one of my trusty trowels and my non-designer gardening gloves and dug up some weeds for a little while. Then I came back inside and punched out about 500 words, which edges me closer to my goal of finishing my second short story for this WoC challenge.
And you know, I think I really do like gardening after all.