It’s a war out there.
“So, Hellpop — it had to be. The two of us side by side against the implacable foe.”
The quote to the right is taken wildly out of context, but Judah/Fred (Fred is, after all, an excellent name) could be talking about dandelions. Or buttercups — nothing says ‘implacable’ quite like buttercups. He could be talking about lots of things.
Of course, gardening isn’t really a war. I get that. That’s just a metaphor. (One that has nothing whatsoever to do with ectoplasmic sailing ships.) I get metaphors (something that would shock Mr. S, Mrs. W and the other Mr. S to their collective cores). It’s not just me, though — people use gardens in lots and lots of metaphors: Gardening is a metaphor for life. Gardening is a metaphor for religion. As far as I can tell, gardening is a metaphor for, well, everything. (Some are more than a little, um, bizarre. But maybe that’s just me.)
But back to war. As metaphors go, a comparison of gardening with war isn’t the silliest thing out there. Because it’s certainly a struggle — not man vs man, state vs state or ideology vs ideology, of course, but man vs nature. And there have been lots of good stories written around the theme of ‘man vs nature’. (I was going to make a list but there are simply too many to pick from. Sorry. I did trip over lots of phrases like ‘man’s archetypal battle with nature’ while I was looking, though. ‘Archetypal.’ I like that.)
The ‘gardening as war’ metaphor creaks a little when you look at it closely: gardening usually isn’t violent (although you should see Canadians in nurseries after a long winter), deaths are extremely unlikely and even injury isn’t particularly common.
That’s where I come in.
You might have concluded by the name I write under and some of the pictures I’ve posted that I’m fond of roses and, by extension, other things that grow in gardens.
And you’d be right.
Most of the roses are out front where there’s more sun, better soil and less toxicity but there are a few out back — they struggle a bit but roses, all things considered, are pretty tough. In particular, behind the garage is a very nice purple one that shares a bed with some irises, poppies, lots of clay, part of the furnace and vast quantities of weeds. So once in a while (not when it’s covered in snow, but I note that with the recent warm spell it’s starting to appear) I assemble an array of implements of destruction and spend a morning fighting vainly against entropy. Like a sunny morning last July.
I had just filled a bag (a bag that once held forty pounds of birdseed so not a small one by any stretch of the imagination) with weeds and I was pausing to contemplate a rest, a beverage and maybe a rerun of Star Trek when there was a noise. From the downspout. (Did I mention that a downspout runs through this garden? I didn’t? Well, a downspout runs through this garden. Makes weeding it just that little bit extra tedious and annoying.)
“That’s odd” I said to myself. “Why is there a noise coming from the downspout? Should I worry about it? Nah. It’s probably nothing.” Well.
It wasn’t nothing: a giant slavering monster burst out of the downspout and leapt at me, hatred in its eyes and murder (or at least an affinity for violent dismemberment) in its heart. I did what any rational being would do — I panicked. I recoiled. I fell over backwards. I may even have screamed like a little girl.
Now, in my younger days I studied judo for a number of years so I know how to fall. Unfortunately, that day I forgot my training and broke my fall with my right thumb. Ow. Not the smartest thing I’ve ever done. Sensei Paul would not have approved.
(There was a silver lining — my sore thumb gave me ample excuse not to weed the garden for over a month.)
(Well, I thought it was ample.)
When I felt up to it (by which I mean ‘when the weather was nice, when there wasn’t anything good on TV, when my thumb didn’t hurt too much and when I wasn’t completely pathetic and lazy’) I turned my attention to the next bed over. That one has hemerocallis, monarda, aster (although I don’t know if they’re contentious or not — why does everything have to be so complicated?), more clay, the expected weeds, no furnace and, most importantly, no downspout — hence no slavering monsters and no potential for unexpected injury.
Laugh laugh, joke joke.
My collection of implements of destruction includes weeders, trowels, cultivators, spades (not shovels — I do know the difference) and forks. The bigger ones (the spades and forks especially) are made of steel and are quite heavy.
Anyway. I dug. I weeded. I edged a little. I filled bags with debris. Sometime in there I heard a noise from the nearby downspout.
“That’s fine” I thought. “After last time I’m ready for slavering monsters with giant snaggle teeth and bad attitudes. Bring it on.”
As if on cue, the giant slavering monster burst out of the downspout. This time, though, he didn’t surprise me. I didn’t scream. I didn’t fall over. I was, if anything, a little smug.
That’s when the slavering monster ran, full-tilt, into the fork I had stuck into the ground. (The all-steel extremely heavy fork? Yeah, that one.) The force of the impact was enough to dislodge the fork from the ground. It toppled over and…
hit me on the head.
Ow. Again. (But well played, Mr. Slavering Monster.)
Like I said, it’s a war out there.