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 Texas : Features : Columns : "The Girl Detective's Theory of Everything"

Spring

by Elizabeth Bussey Sowdal
Elizabeth Bussey Sowdal

Spring is coming! Can you feel it? Can you smell it? When you leave for work in the morning the birds are waking and starting to sing. Grape hyacinth and crocus are starting to bloom and the fruit trees are just starting to bud out. Which means, in Oklahoma, just one more bout of sub-freezing temperatures and then it's official. Spring again!

For me the very best part of Spring is playing in the dirt. I'm not a gardener. I plant stuff but only because it grows in dirt and I like to dig. I don't weed, fertilize, prune or tie things up. That's what my husband is for. I "dead head", but only because you can do that with one hand while you're on the phone.

I like flowers and vegetables and all things green and lush. But there is a talent to gardening, a gift, and I don't have it. But give me a shovel and step back! I love the smell of garden dirt, rich and real and warm, the color of it, the weight of it, the potential of it. I love to go outside on a sunny, chilly morning and start slow. Let my muscles warm up, find my rhythm. Feel the sun getting warmer on my head, aware vaguely of the sounds of radios and cars and children shouting and laughing. I like to pluck fat grubs out the ground to toss to the robins. Work up a sweat. I don't even mind a blister or two -- because it's Spring and everything is O.K. by me!

But there is so much more to gardening than digging. It is both art and science. Gardening is like parenthood. You can't just flip through the Burpee's catalog, pick out a couple of dozen pretty plants, plop 'em down and move on anymore than you can raise a family by stocking up on Arrowroot biscuits and having the baby's picture taken in a sailor suit and think you're done. It's like marriage. There's so much more to it than just looking cute together and agreeing on which tuxes to choose for the groomsmen. While there is certainly pleasure in it, there is a lot of sheer, low down, bone bending, back breaking drudgery. Gardening is hard work too.

You must know what to plant where. You must give it consistent attention and care. You must know when to nurture and when to sacrifice. Not me. I figure if it grows for me it deserves some credit. That includes hen bit. I like hen bit.

I do not like Bermuda grass. It hurts my feelings in a way. Stay on the lawn, I don't care. You're green, you'll blend in. Why must you take over my flower beds? You know that you're hard to pull, difficult to keep out. Are you trying to hurt me? Are you trying to bring me down? Can't we come to a compromise?

Keeping the Bermuda grass out of my flower beds is exactly like housework to me. I don't mind it, really, every once in a while. But as soon as you're done -- BAM! You have to start all over and do it again. And it's never any different than the time before. Never any more interesting. I have never walked into the bathroom and said, "Woo-hooo! This is going to be FUN!" Wouldn't it be nice if you could scour the tub once a year -- gosh, once a MONTH would be O.K. -- and know it would be pristine until the next time. If only you could spend one afternoon pulling grass and be done for the whole rest of the year!

But no, That is not the way of it. Bermuda grass waits until your are temporarily distracted and then completely overwhelms everything else in a matter of MINUTES. Well. Not minutes. Days. But I'm fairly distractible, so it seems like minutes. And then you're stuck with a decision. You can either spend another afternoon pulling grass with the sure and certain knowledge that you will have to do it again and again and again. Or you can plant really vigorous tall plants that can rise above the grass. Triumph over it. You can embrace the grass, give it your blessings and when you have a yen to see some nicely cultivated stuff which is carefully maintained, pack a lunch and drive over to your local botanical gardens for a nice picnic. That's my kind of gardening!

Elizabeth Bussey Sowdal
"The Girl Detective's Theory of Everything" >
March 28, 2007 Column
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This page last modified: March 28, 2007