“Do you live at the condos now?” he asked.
“No, I’m the gardener.”
“Just the gardener,” he reassured the cashier, who then quickly rang up the sale.
At my dad’s house, I recently pulled up around 20 huge stinging nettle plants from under the bay window. For those not acquainted with these nasty bastards, stinging nettles suck. Even wearing gloves, you can collect many tiny welts that look and feel much like bee stings, with a spreading burning sensation and numbness. The initial effect’s short-lived, but memorable. If you try washing your hands to ease the discomfort, it only reactivates the poisons on your skin.
Nature says, “Prickers? Don’t touch.”
This means you. Yeah you, with the misguided urge to beat back nature in yet another small, insignificant way.
Unlike roses that give you a gorgeous eyeful for your thorny pain, nettles have very little to offer by way of pleasure. They take and take, but don’t give – and that’s just fine. Who’s going to tell them otherwise? They may be lying in a prickly pile now, soon to be dried up into compost, but their nasty little friends they seeded before you got to them aren’t very far behind. They’ll keep coming and coming, until the local climate shifts and the next wave of botanical pestilence takes their place.
So, the cycle’s ever-changing. And it never stops. A daily opportunity to gird your loins for the ever-lasting dance between success and failure, pleasure and pain.
Amd I being overly serious and philosophical about a big pile of ugly weeds? Blame it on the existential moment of multiple simultaneous bee stings. And yet. There’s the love. The communing with nature, and the concurrent delight in pulling her right up by her scraggly little roots.
Why wax philosophical over some nasty weeds? Well, apparently this is what happens when you apply an English professor to the task of working as a summer gardener. Or, “Landscaper,” as my main employer so very politely calls me. That title puffs up for me more glamorous images of berms built and walkways bricked, majestic hedgerows placed. The reality instead is an on-my-knees, climbing into scratchy bushes, dirty-sweaty daily summer work life. And this half-country girl loves it. The opportunity to make a little change for my pocket, working outside playing in the dirt, getting paid to do something I’d probably do for free anyway.
Adventures to be continued. Time to go back to playing in the dirt.