Gertrude’s lounging out in the backyard, plucking cherry tomatoes off the vine. She eats more than she brings inside. Any attempt to cajole her is pointless. Couldn’t you at least help with the weeding? Or pull out the lettuce plants that have gone to seed? She squints from behind her designer sunglasses only long enough to pop another tomato into her mouth.
It’s a jungle out there: all overgrown vines and dried sunflower stalks and basil needing to be pinched off.
My favorite time in the garden is early spring. Just after I’ve cleared and raked, added compost to the beds. The seedlings are neat and tidy and the weeds haven’t yet had time to emerge. There’s nothing to eat, but the air is lush in anticipation. And the certainty that this year the tomatoes will taste like ambrosia. The cantaloupe will be plentiful and sweet. The neighborhood stray cat will cease to use the raised beds as a litter box. And I’ll manage to stay a step ahead, picking the zucchini before it approximates a baseball bat.
I have the same feeling out on the golf course when I’m ready to tee off at the first hole. Despite the fact I know so little about taking a swing, still, I have no trouble maintaining the pretense that the club will make contact in that sweet spot, and the ball will fly off in a high arc that lands inches from the hole. This will be the game when I score three birdies and a par on more holes than not. By the end of the game, my scorecard is filled with one par and a string of double bogies.
Call me an optimist. Or call me delusional.
It’s October now. Summer is winding down; the garden has imposed its reality upon me. This year the tomatoes were plentiful, but mediocre. The broccoli had an infestation of tiny grayish sludge, making them inedible. I understand this is on account of those pesky white moths, fluttering innocently. Sleek and graceful, like stealth bombers.
There were also the welcome surprises: The cantaloupe was plentiful and watery sweet. I feasted on pesto for a solid three weeks, and harvested baskets full of lettuce and carrots and beets, enough to keep me in salad for most of the summer. There’s nothing like the joy of pulling a long, dirt-clad carrot out of the ground. And the cherry tomatoes. Not even Gertrude could eat her way through such abundance.
And just when the pineapple guava were ripening, I bagged a hole-in-one out on the golf course.
I’m trying to embrace the messiness of life. The cowlick. The car dent. Those white moths that wreak havoc on my broccoli. The noisy neighbors. The barking dog. It’s the only way to write. Dig up the weeds and see what grows.