Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Gardening: The Original Precarious Vocation

As always, I may tend to the hyperbolic (but what better way to attract attention or elicit thought).

The massive winter storm that has gripped 30 states and paralyzed major metropolitan areas clipped the very north of Delaware this morning, sparing us. True, we received a bit of ice yesterday and a bit of ice this morning, but warmer temperatures melted the ice and forced precipitation from the sky from solid to liquid. In fact, as of this moment (4:16 p.m.) the sun shines for broad spans of time before another wayward mass of clouds occludes the symbol of our hope that spring shall arrive, no matter what Punxsutawney Phil presumably communicates.

“Warmth” (we must encase it in quotation marks, for warmth is a relative term) is, when confronting the remnants of winter, an archaeologist. It removes, layer by layer, almost imperceptibly, methodically, slowly, the detritus of storms to reveal that which had been buried. (Unless the ardent, stressed out gardener, like me, prematurely erases winter and “rescues” bushes and plants from their snow white coffins, as I have done with the Nikko Blue Hydrangea and the Nandinas, the multiple Pieris bushes and the Brooms.)

And our archaeology is not always pretty. (Recall my lamentations after our 4 feet of snow last February.) I pity poor Rosemary, which now begins to peer out from her white encasement, and the Boxwoods, which show signs of "freezer burn." I can barely see the rest of the garden, covered as it remains by heaps of snow.

Of course, I hear the scorns of my dear readers:

"Real gardeners would have religiously wrapped the Boxwoods and the Rosemary in swaths of burlap, like some theological icon sheltered from the scourge of humanity, waiting for spring to reveal its radiant splendor to show us all how penitent we should be." 

"Real gardeners would have at least sprayed anti-transpirant spray like 'Wilt-Pruf' to protect the darlings of the structured garden." 

So, I admit, once again, and once again publicly, my failures as a gardener. Perhaps I unconsciously like the precariousness of it all.
Perhaps the precariousness of it all is the small gardener's answer to change. Gardeners blessed with large spaces in which to cultivate their art can always expand. The small garden gardener faces more severe restrictions. And the paramount restriction of space makes change more desired but change more painful--for every change must come with a corresponding loss (unless--GARDEN SNOB ALERT--the small space gardener cheats and only plants pedestrian, how boring).

And so, we rely not on our own inner realists, but on nature. Nature may giveth, but nature taketh away.
Sure, she may rob us of our prized plants, and may consequently plunge us into despair. No matter how long I garden, no matter how many plants await me in the garden shops in the spring to purchase and fill those new, unexpected holes in the garden, I still experience the sadness engendered by loss, and still mourn the departed.

But those acts of thievery must always be reinterpreted as opportunities--opportunities for purchasing yourself "a little happy."

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