Commentary: The reluctant thumb

Commentary: The reluctant thumb
Photo by Lukas from Pexels
A shovel goes into the dirt.

My previously white thumb has turned a sort of sickly pale green. It’s so pale that one could be forgiven for not noticing, but I can see it and it troubles me.

“What happened?” concerned readers gasp in chorus. Well, if you stop gasping, I’ll tell you. I was organizing the annual seeding of the ‘lawn’ (and by lawn I mean dirt with random patches of crabgrass) so the birds would have food. This is my annual protocol, and it has worked fine for years:

1. Throw grass seed onto ‘lawn’.

2. Watch birds eat grass seed.

3. Curse birds.

4. Throw out more grass seed.

5. Watch birds eat grass seed.

6. Curse birds, maybe yell at them.

7. Have the following epiphany: ‘Dirt is better, is effortless’. Create ‘spin’ on this (see next item).

8. Spin in place: “I have an environmentally-friendly xeriscaped space,”

9. Embrace new concept of xeriscaping while jeering at neighbours for having rich green healthy – but environmentally unfriendly – grass lawns.

Unfortunately, this year I veered from the protocol: I hand-watered the seed twice a day. Who knew that watering is part of growing new grass? If you read the instructions, sure, but otherwise who would know? So it came to be that two weeks later, to my complete shock, little green things were sticking up all over the place. “What is this stuff?” I wondered. Upon closer inspection, I realized they were little baby grassies. I think if I were to search for the beginning of my pale green thumb condition, it would be that day when my maternal instinct kicked in, the day I fell in love with the baby grassies.

If I can grow grass, I thought, what else might be possible? Whenever I’d bought plants in the past, the shock would prove too much for them, they would sense that I wasn’t the nurturing type, and the knowledge that they were being taken to certain death would overwhelm them. They would wither and die, usually by the time I paid for them at the cash register. Sure I’d still take the carcass home with me, but I’d be discouraged about it.

Things were different now. Giddy with success, I bought several more living things: a plant with green leaves and some kind of flower, another plant with white-edged green leaves, another with light green leaves, and three ferns. They smiled up at me as we drove home. Yes, things were different, no doubt about it. Sure, I couldn’t remember what any of the plants were called, but they didn’t seem to mind.

At home they met my California lilac plant, bought three years previously. This plant is my bane. I remember its name because, well, even I can remember a plant called a ‘California lilac’. I would describe this plant to you in case I do have the name wrong (likely), but ‘bitter-looking stick with occasional green leaves’ probably won’t tell you much. It is bitter because one day I accidentally stepped on it while removing a fence that blocked its sun. I was not aware that plants could look put-upon but turns out they can, and they can hold a grudge, too. Every single day it looks faintingly up at me as I water it, and I know what it is thinking. No apology will ever be enough, and that I’ve showcased it in bark with pretty steps around (so that nobody else will step on it) means nothing to it. It won’t even die so that I can replace it, instead it lingers on, trying to look as bad as possible without actually going into rigor mortis.

Sulking lilac aside, all the plants are growing like the weeds they’re not, to my never-ending surprise, and the little grassies have grown into fine young manly grasses. There’s a smiling Buddha who watches over the plants so that they feel safe at night, and there are birds to keep them company during the day. Still, as I ponder this pretty new green oasis, I can’t help but recall the simpler days when dirt and weeds were part of an elaborate “xeriscaping concept”, the birds had 2 billion seed-meals a day, and ‘gardening’ was as easy as shutting the blinds so that nobody could see what was out there.

Jo has been messing around with words for a long time. Sometimes she’ll just say the words rather than writing them, to save on paper. Occasionally words fail her, but when that happens she just rounds them up and forces them into sentences to keep them in line.

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Jo SladeJo Slade

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