Thursday, June 2, 2011

Ice Cream Cones and Shame in the Garden of Eden

I am not a fan of hot, humid summers. I melt. Living in an old house with only marginal insulation--and many an air leak--makes it all the more unpleasant.

But if we must endure, then at least there is ice cream. I once worked in an ice cream parlor--one of those high school summer jobs to pass time and earn some money. The shop closed at the end of the summer. Surely it had nothing to do with the fact that I single-handedly consumed tens of gallons of ice cream--at full employee's discount, of course--when my youthful metabolism demanded that I constantly feed it.

So when I see the Oak Leaf Hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) and its conical panicles, I think of ice cream. Tahitian vanilla, or Madagascar vanilla. And I crave it. Especially this week, with temperatures in mid to high 90s, made more unbearable with humidity. Despite my workout regimen and diet--now a necessity owing to middle-age metabolic deceleration.

But Oak Leaf Hydrangeas are good for something else. For covering up. Yes, as in Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, or post Garden of Eden as shame came after the expulsion.

Let's just say that I have a habit, especially in the wee hours of the morning when the world is asleep, of venturing out into the garden, clad, ahem, only in the most marginal of ways. It's completely unintentional. I feed the cats, make the coffee, and then peer outside and see something--a new flower, the way the light hits a plant, or, as is the case with "wildlife" in the garden, something more sinister like a broken plant--and move silently outdoors into a magical world.

And then, invariably, it happens. One of the neighbors opens a door or window, and off to the Oak Leaf I go. It may not be a giant fig leaf, but its rather generously sized leaves does the job.

Yesterday morning, I emptied the kitchen composting container and decided, in boxers only, to venture to the spigot to clean it out. Despite being near the front of the house, the spigot is fairly well concealed, and so I thought I was safe.

And then something unusual happened. I heard  a "woo-hoo!  WOO-HOO!" and I stood up to see a man standing at the base of the stairs that descend from the alley and meet the silver section of the front garden. "Did you happen to see a red garden cart that suddenly 'appeared' in your area?"

I glanced around, looking for Oak Leaf. But Oak Leaf is in the shade garden, and I was far from it. At that moment I appreciated all of the cover-up protection afforded by that Southeastern US native.

"Um, no, I haven't. But I feel your pain. People come by in the middle of the night and steal my flowers."

"Gardener's curse," he responded dryly, thankfully turning quickly away, probably feeling the shame that no doubt exuded from my pores.

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