Sunday, August 21, 2005

Would you spend hours cleaning the house for the mother-in-law of a complete stranger?

I did. Today, the soon-to-be-owners of our house asked to bring their parents for a special visit. You know, so they could say –“look ma & pa, look what we bought yesterday!”

I ran into the whole lot of them as I was getting the last piece of garbage into the van outside. The place was, of course, immaculate.

Why bother? We have an accepted offer. It’s not as if I am going to go home and there’ll be a ding-a-ling-a-ling and it will be them saying – forget it, slobs*, we do not want your piece of junk!”

Why do we do the things we do? Why do we bother, when it makes no difference, creates not even a small increment of pleasure?

I don’t know.

* incidentally, if they called us slobs, they’d be the first

inch by inch, row by row, gonna make my garden grow...or not.

Five years ago if you had asked me about my non-academic interests, I would have talked about traveling, writing, cooking and, yes, gardening.

Serious about my perennials, I planted hundreds upon hundreds of them. I pored over White Flower Farm catalogues in February and was there each April for the first hours of the Flower Factory's opening week-end. Dirt on my hands, strained muscles from digging -- all blissful reminders of my Hearty Polish Peasant Stock.

Then, like an unfaithful lover, a season or two ago, I got tired of it. My attention drifted. Overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of garden space (the yard here is huge), by the rabbits that constantly chomped at my dianthus, by the phlox mildew and the spit-bugs and the drought and the weeds, I took one look and walked away.

The forces of nature retaliated. The perennial beds grew with wild abandon. Screw you, they seemed to say, we will multiply and spread and with great promiscuity, we will welcome weeds and everything and anything that wants to take part in this wild fling with nature. We'll show you how hot and alive we are! -- they told me.

But it was like the last wail of a scorned lover. I gave a small "there, there" pat, pulled a weed or two and turned away. The lure of the downtown, of my writing, of my camera, of new faces and new spaces was too great.

So, good-bye garden. Once I loved you to death. Now you are just a sweet memory of a damp soil and fresh new shoots in spring. Tucked away with all other sweet memories of past loves and passionate indulgences.