Of Weeds and Writing

It’s that time of summer when I’m beginning to fantasize about next year’s garden. Because this year’s garden is a hot mess.

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Bean Buddha is characteristically chill about all this. Unlike me.

My garden dreams begin in July. I open the garden gate (open here meaning wrestle, because the gate is not in any way actually attached to anything. One of these days I’ll get to that). I have to snap through tentacles of morning glory, a plant which I understand some humans intentionally cultivate, but which one of several banes of my garden’s existence. I feel like I am finishing a marathon! I break through the finish line! Snap!! I win!!!

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The entrance to Jurassic Garden.

But I do not win. I lose. This garden doesn’t look like a garden. It looks like the set of a Jurassic Park film. There are raptors living in here somewhere. I am sure of it. There’s certainly room for them to hatch, live out their life cycles, and die, completely unnoticed by the human eye.

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If you look closely, you can see raptors hiding behind the undergrowth. The one you don’t see is the one that will get you. Clever girl.

Perhaps my greatest strength and weakness as a gardener is curiosity, a sense of horticultural adventure. It is this curiosity that leads me to try new varieties every year, despite knowing that there are specific ones that will definitely do well. Curiosity prevents me from pulling interesting-looking weeds, wanting to know what they will become. Maybe they will be something good! Something beautiful! Something fun! (Spoiler: they will not. They are weeds. By the time I have accepted this truth, they will have set seed and gone forth and been fruitful and multiplied themselves with wild abandon all over the garden, which has become their new promised land, a land in which they will slaughter the current inhabitants and reign supreme.)

Curiosity also stays my hand when a squash plant that I did not plant pops up. A squash! I should let it grow! Maybe it’s zucchini! Maybe it’s pumpkin! Look, there are three of them!

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It’s so pretty!

But they are not zucchini, pumpkin, or anything else anyone other than a chicken would ever want to eat. (I know that chickens will eat them because when your garden gate is not really attached to anything, and you have chickens, one of them named Amelia for her resemblance to the ill-fated aviatrix who insisted on flying further and further from home, chickens, like their relatives in Jurassic Park, find a way.)

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I didn’t stop to think whether I should.

By the time I realize that these squash are only fit for chickens, who will eat almost literally anything, the three cute baby squash plants are rampaging monsters that have taken over the carrot patch and are swiftly encroaching on the beans. Of course these useless volunteers are the most robust plants in the entire garden. They burst from its center like a kraken erupting from the ocean, flinging their thick green tentacles in all directions, snatching at everything in their wake and pulling it under. I, the gardener, have unleashed the kraken in much the same manner as Pandora opening her box, except that there is no hope hidden in the burgeoning blossoms of this monster, just a bunch of really random-looking and totally inedible (except to chickens) squash. By the time I realize what I have wrought, it is too late to save the carrots. The naked ear cannot hear vegetables scream. I imagine them perishing silently and stoically, captains all.

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There could be anything living in this garden.

Every year it is the same. This year’s garden begins well, orderly, contained, controlled. By July, it is a teenager who is so over me and stays out late drinking and partying, who flips off old ladies at gas stations and has unsafe sex with every last pollinator who strays too close. July’s garden is a hellion. There are tomatoes in there somewhere, I think.

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Here be tomatoes!

I need to wade in there and pull out those demon-squashes. I need to dig the potatoes that might be hiding under what looks like a lush carpet of lawn. It’s rained buckets all summer. It’s supposed to rain all week. By the time I can get into this garden, the squash plants will likely have become sentient. Perhaps all that can be done at this point is to stage an outdoor performance of Little Shop of Horrors.

But next year’s garden? It’s perfection. You should see it. There’s not a weed in sight. Everything is mulched, intentional. I have finally bothered to set plants in straight rows instead of thinking that I, who cannot hang a picture evenly, can eyeball the placement of pepper plants.

My writing has become like this year’s garden. It’s a bit out of control, and very unintentional. I’ve neglected it, and in the meantime, strange things have burgeoned under cover of sheltering avoidance. I need to get in there and pull the weeds, find the magic struggling toward the sunlight. I finished querying Vessel, which is both a good and a strange feeling. I’ve sent queries everywhere I can, and now it is not time to wait, but to wade back in to the projects I’ve ignored and put off, and start making some sense of them. No more excuses. I start today.

And then, once the soil has dried out, I am taking my vorpal sword into the garden and I am going to do battle with the jabbersquash, and I am going to win.

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4 thoughts on “Of Weeds and Writing

  1. Wonderful! I enjoyed every sentence. I too, begin dreaming and planning next year’s garden about now…because there are always some failures and the lure to try again/do better begins to bubble in my brain.

    1. Thanks, Carolee! I keep telling myself that one of these years, THIS year’s garden will be perfect…..but there’s really no such thing, is there? A garden is too messy and alive for perfection. Happy gardening, and may your next year’s garden be the best yet!

  2. My first read after a friend recommended your site – a wonderful description!! As my backyard garden is frequently the described jungle of competing flora (and some fauna!), I opted for a more captive effort on my deck where my various plantings are neatly incarcerated in their respective pots and planters. At least for this summer, I’m content to be the plants’ zookeeper rather than the jungle bushwhacker down below – but there is always next year to fabntasize about!! Thanks

    1. Thanks so much for reading and commiserating, Dan! Oh, that unintentional backyard fauna…it adds a whole new dimension of adventure. The zookeeping metaphor makes me smile–and the approach seems eminently sensible. Best wishes for the continued good health (and good behavior) of your inmates!

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