Tuesday, January 27, 2009

If My Hands are Filthy, It Must Be Spring

The green tops of daffodil stems have pushed their way through the hard ground. And I know that spring is still months away, but the gardener in me is beginning to salivate. Besides writing, there’s nothing I love more than getting my hands in the dirt. So, the only way to satisfy my need for dirt under my fingernails is to write about it.

Maybe love of gardening comes from a fascination with earthworms that I had when I was a girl. There’s nothing weirder than holding a wriggling worm. Nothing more magical than the way they chew up the soil and poop it out again. Sorry—but it’s true.

When Ariel was a little girl, she was captured by the same worm curiosity and for one delightful spring she had a worm box—we started with a couple of worms and ended up with a box of fat nightcrawlers.

But it’s not just the earthworms that enthrall me, it’s the beauty of seeing in the physical realm a spiritual reality. Every spring, things that seem dead and forgotten burst forth in a riot of color. They proclaim loudly the truth of the resurrection. First it’s the crocus. She blooms in yellows and purples so bright that it burns your eyes after the drab grays and browns of winter. Next, daffodils dressed like yellow bonneted-milk maids raise their faces to the sun. Then the hyacinths bloom. Their scent makes the rosebush blush in shame. Then the tulips rise up out of the ground, their stems bearing petalled flowers much too heavy for their skinny stems. And when a late winter storm hits and you think they’re surely ruined, you go outside on the next warm day and see the tulips drinking in the sun.

I’m tempted to go on and on about my flowers. But, of course, they don’t happen in a vacuum. I have to get my hands dirty. They need fertilizer. I have to battle their nasty enemies: aphids, mildews, beetles, etc. But more than anything I hate grubs. They remind me of creatures from Dante’s Inferno. I have nightmares about grubs. I can see their obese death-white bodies in my mind when I close my eyes. All they want to do is destroy my beloved plants and flowers.

The flowerbeds at our house are all new. When we bought our house, it was clear that no one had put any work into the yard in maybe fifty years. So, I put in flower beds. We wrote an IOU to the grass. But when the city dug up our yard to replace the sewage pipes last winter it became clear that we need to do something sooner rather than later since our yard was now littered with rocks. We raked, roto-tilled and planted seed. And a beautiful lawn of tall fescue graced our front yard. It was so emerald green you had to shield your eyes. Until…brown patch fungus took over. Pretty soon, our emerald green mat became a rug polka-dotted with brown spots. Within a month, the fungus and the Southern heat destroyed my lawn. Now it’s being over-run with Bermuda grass, which is beginning to look like a friend to me, despite the fact that I’ve always called it “Devil grass” and ripped it out with a passion to equal my hatred for grubs. But, if it actually survives and thrives, I may call it my “dear Devil grass,” or maybe “resurrection grass” since it goes dormant in the winter too. Hmm, I hope that doesn’t get me into theological problems… Maybe I’ll just call it Bermuda grass.


  1. What are you going to do with your garden next?

  2. Can't wait for spring either! I'm starting to dream about our veggie beds and need to place some orders soon.

  3. Ah yes, the rock hauling and the toiling over grass that dies.
    That was fun.