July 8, 2018

please do not recommend gardening to me as a positive activity

Driving around in the mountains these days, I pass reminder after reminder that everyone up here can garden.  Everyone except me.

Cute flower beds and hostas flourish within landscape timbers.  Irises stand proud and tall around the mailboxes.  Rows of sunflowers turn their faces east beside tidy tomato plants and rows of sweet corn.


I have a lot of talents.  It wasn't easy for me to write that just now, because usually saying that makes me feel intense shame, because I'm mentally fucked up and programmed to hide them and feel guilty about them and pretend they're non-existent.  My fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Jones, is a hundred percent to blame for it all.

Therapist Gumby has brought me a fair distance in this regard.  So yes, I can sing pretty well, and maybe even write a little, and I can copy that water drop sound that the self-checkout computer at Home Depot makes, and also make cricket noises and purr like a cat so well that it makes cats come to me, when there are cats, which there usually aren't.  Talents.

Gardening is an anti-talent for me.  It's not the mere absence of a propensity for the activity.  That, they just call a brown thumb.  No, it's more a black hole of ability, a guarantee that any effort I make will have precisely the opposite effect, in terms of physics and practicum, of the one intended.

I fell in love with a dead tree in my front yard this past spring.  It's a mountain laurel, I think, but it's hard to be sure because it was throttled by some kind of vine-weed thing and completely bare and weighed down by blighted buds.  I concluded that because one of the branches closest to the trunk was still somewhat supple, I could have it thriving by summer.  There was life in it yet.  Its plight tapped into my compassion.

I went down with shears and a rake one chilly morning in March and clipped all of the buds and the more obvious bits of dead branch and twig, cleared the space at the ground so it wouldn't have competition, and declared that any day now, we'd see new growth.  It would work.  Just watch.

I asked the advice of a friend who is an avid gardener.  She said to give it TLC for a couple of months, and if it didn't respond, be ruthless.  She said this worked well for several ex-husbands and boyfriends.  So we named the doomed shrub The Ex-Husband and we've watched it.

It's July now, and it is really most sincerely dead.  But I can't bring myself to cut The Ex-Husband down.  He's a decaying brown eyesore in the yard, but being in love with a dead tree is right in keeping with my gardening abilities.  It's the only thing I can grow.

I once killed a pothos.

A pothos plant is the one they advertise as being completely impossible to kill, short of dousing it with kerosene and lighting it on fire.  It is the plant they tell people who are terrible with house plants to buy.  You can do anything to a pothos.  You can forget to water it for a month, or lovingly water it every day.  You can keep it in a damp, dark basement with weird chemical smells permeating the air.  You can put it in the oven at 350 for twenty minutes until the center is fully baked and a toothpick comes out clean.  You can let it stay up late on a school night and watch horror movies with you.  You can even hack off a piece of it and stick it in dirt and it becomes another pothos in three seconds flat.  A pothos can take anything.

It took two full years, but I persevered.  I killed it.  I killed it by trying to take good care of it.

Sometimes I wonder why the trees and grass by the road don't wither in my wake when I'm out walking.

This is why I love IKEA one of the four hundred and sixty thousand billion trillion reasons I love IKEA.  Their fake plants are top-drawer superior to all others.  Eight years ago, I was trying to grow an amaryllis in my office, and I have to say that it thrived, in that it grew a single beautiful, green leaf approximately six feet long.  I had to drape it over the top of a filing cabinet.  This was ... not normal.  So I bought an IKEA plant and placed it on my desk instead, and I can't tell you how many people commented on it, asked was species it was, poked their finger in the "soil" to see if it needed watering, caressed the leaves and looked very confused afterward.  "It's a real fake plant!"

(A fellow alto has a prosthetic left leg.  A garage door fell on it when she was six, and now she's in her early sixties, and not a single fuck is given.  She wears shorts in the summer and is forever having children come up to her shyly to ask, "Um, um, is that a real fake leg?")

To be fair, the croton is doing well, but this is only because it has other people in its life.  They appear to be capable of mitigating the impact of my interactions with it.  This is a plant with cause to believe in angels and The Devil with all its heart.

Maybe all this is why I don't trust trees to grow and pull what they need from the ground.  It's a phenomenon I can't decipher, much less foster.  And maybe it's why I appreciate that canopied road of elms so much.  As I walk in their cradle of shade, they stay green, and they're safe from me.

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