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it’s greener where you water it

January 25, 2012

“Every blade of grass has its angel that bends over it and whispers, ‘Grow, grow.’”

 — The Talmud

I’ve said it before, and I’m confident I will say it again:  I want to love to garden.  I want to be the person who, on a sun-washed Saturday afternoon, pulls on a pair of well-worn gloves and kneels purposefully in her front yard.  I want to squint quizzically at the shoots rising out of the mulch, wondering on which day my bulbs will blossom.  I want to thrill at a tiny tomato, reddening on a vine.

So far, though, I haven’t loved it.  At all.

Having bought a house with a yard in dire need of care, though, I’ve decided to will myself to love gardening.  Emboldened by the months I’ve spent lovingly tending not killing either Frida or a croton given to us as a housewarming present, I declared this past Saturday “Yard Work Day,” congratulating myself before I’d even picked up a rake.

I pulled on my brand-spanking-new gardening gloves and felt the sun on my back and shoulders.  I listened to my children playing merrily in the front yard as I knelt in the dirt to begin my work.

Almost immediately, I felt a strange tickle on my leg.

The tickle quickly moved up to my knee.

When the tickle became a hard pinch, I let out a scream loud enough to cause the little girls across the street to look up from their scooters and gaze curiously at their new neighbor, hopping crazily into her garage.

After sprinting inside and shaking off my jeans (much to the befuddlement of my dog), I found one very large, very menacing-looking wasp tucked inside my pant leg.

As the welts on my leg began to swell, as my rake and gloves languished in the front yard, my immediate thought was, “This is why I hate gardening.”  My second, quieter thought was, “I’ve got to keep showing up anyway.”  It was a sudden realization, irritating me almost as much as the wasp stings.  Still, I understood: some loves aren’t just born.  Some need to be cultivated.

For me, the hardest part about gardening is just the daily slog; the showing up every day, the devotion, the loss, the grief, the getting stung.

I’ve yet to experience most of gardening’s riches, to be fair, but I imagine the fruits of plugging away in the dirt will be the colors that bloom, the sunshine, and the transformation of the barren into something better.

Look, I know that The Gardening Metaphor is limp and exhausted.  I imagine it must be sick to death of hacks like me employing it to signify persistence, or change, or renewal, so I’ll offer a humble apology for employing it yet again.  Still, it works for me to imagine my plants as the culmination of my dedication; to recognize that, like almost everything else, they thrive or die in direct proportion to the amount of energy I give them.  Like the saying, “The grass is always greener where you water it,” when I’m forced to assume responsibility for my role in the symbiotic process of nature, I feel connected.  I am unable to let myself off the hook, citing drought or disaster, when I know — deep down — that I didn’t do my part.

So, I’ll be back.  Wasps, curious children, drought, and all, I’ll keep kneeling in the dirt and see what emerges. I’ll try to believe in the Talmud’s whispering angels while I do so, but I’m not making any promises.

Where is your grass the greenest?  Today, I hope you relish the sunshine and delight in whatever is blooming.  Thanks, as always, for showing up.

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