Dirty Jokes

If you read my blog, if you know me well, or even if you accidentally breathe near me, you know I love my garden. It’s a constant source of comfort, peace, and inspiration.

What you may not know is that, at times, it’s also like a slapstick episode of I Love Lucy. Oh, the comedy lurking in every spade of earth!

Take the past two days.

Yesterday I tried out the new gardener’s bench I was given for my recent birthday. Right side up it’s the ideal height for deadheading roses. Upside down it’s a knee pad with tall braces to help me get this creaky body back to a standing position.

There I was, cleaning last fall’s mulch away from the crown of a rosebush and contemplating the amazing review I would write about this magical bench. I leaned back on my heels and crunch! I suddenly didn’t need the tall braces to rise. Thorny canes on the bush behind me took care of that. My legs and my fanny made a perfect sandwich out of those lanky stalks. I’m thinking my product review should contain a warning that the package doesn’t.

Back-up mirror not included.

Undaunted by yesterday’s rear-ender, I was back in the garden this morning. Part of my early spring routine is to give each of my 40+ rosebushes a dose of special fertilizer. The brand I’ve been using for years comes in a large jug with a cap that requires you to squeeze and push down while you turn it.

This year, not even a month after my 65th birthday, I couldn’t get the blasted cap off. On about the third try, I started to mutter under my breath about the irony of putting childproof caps on a product that I’m pretty sure older adults use more than anyone else. I finally got it off, but my letter of indignant outrage is going to go something like this.

Hey, Fertilizer People! Is anybody home? If the pharmacy will put an easy open cap on prescription bottles for seniors, why can’t you make a cap for 65+ gardeners that doesn’t require the help of Superman to open? Superman being my grandchild, of course.

Sometimes ridiculous things don’t actually happen, but they play out in my head anyway. My musings typically start with near misses or what ifs and end with imaginary headlines.

Rose Enthusiast Blinded by Cane She Was Pruning: She didn’t see that one coming.

Local Woman Trips and Dies in Garden While Husband Watches TV: She somehow managed to dial his cell number, but he didn’t answer.

Early-Bird Gardener Mauled by Cheeky Cottontails: Morning is our time to play in the yard!

Of course, it wouldn’t be all bad if something completely ridiculous happened. Ridiculous stories go viral every day. It would make my little gardening blog an overnight sensation. It might even inspire an epic spoof on Saturday Night Live!

Move over, Lucy. Oh, cottontails! Come out, come out wherever you are!

Bunny - Spring 2018




Show Up

When Katie, my happy-go-lucky Springer Spaniel, was alive, she and I took a walk around all the paths in our back yard every evening weather permitting. I didn’t always want to go. She consistently persuaded me with her gleeful anticipation.

Katie - Springer SpanielShe’s been gone more than two years, but I can still picture her out there among the roses and the aspens. What a girl. She was never more content than when she was by my side, and she never tired of poking her nose in familiar bushes in the hope of discovering something new.

Her “cute dog trick” (as my mother called it) was to sniff out mysterious creatures in the sandy soil, stare at them motionless like a hunting spaniel that had spied a pheasant, and then pounce. She’d wiggle her butt and her little stump of a tail, spin joyously in circles, and then do it all over again.

We never actually saw what she was chasing, but we decided to nickname them graboids after the colossal sandworms in the campy movie Tremors. She didn’t catch a single one, but she made it her lifelong mission to try.

Katie Hunting GraboidsWith tears in our eyes, this was the last story we shared with our veterinarian as Katie drifted off to her final sleep at the ripe old age of 14. I like to think she’s merrily hunting graboids in heavenly rows of flowers and fruit trees, waiting for me to finally show up.

I still like to stroll around the yard weather permitting. Sure, I’m out there almost daily from spring to fall weeding, pruning, deadheading, and fertilizing. It’s not the same, though, as just enjoying the space.

Sometimes I simply soak up the beauty of the roses I so carefully tend. I take pictures by the thousands and sit on my stone “count your blessings” bench doing exactly that.

Sometimes I see miracles. Once while approaching our ornamental pear tree, I looked up just in time to see a mother hummingbird feed her fledging offspring by sliding her long beak down the little bird’s throat. I stopped dead in my tracks and watched in awe.

I’d like to think I appreciate everything in life as much as I appreciate my garden. I’m not perfect, but I do try. Especially as I’ve grown older, and life has naturally grown shorter, the value of walking in constant gratitude has come into sharper focus.

It’s not just about rare moments like seeing the Northern Lights or your daughter in a wedding gown. It’s the everyday gifts – the majesty of a fiery sunset, a song that unexpectedly touches your heart, the last poignant lines of a soulful book, your goofy dog romping in the snow.

Maybe the best thing we can do is live every day like we’re hunting graboids. It doesn’t matter if the prize is something no one else can see, or that we may never actually catch it. We can still delight in the chase. We just have to show up.

Katie in Snow

No Lamp to Rub

It would be lovely if every question that plagued gardeners had a neat and tidy answer. The reality is, sometimes we don’t know why certain things happen.

Take the small rosebush in the northwest corner of my garden.

1 - Joy's Pink PhaseIt was a gift for my mother, transported to the desert by my older sister on one of the many trips she made from Oregon to give me a break from caregiving. To my mother’s delight, the initial white buds opened into pretty, blush roses. We didn’t know the name but, since she was irresistibly drawn to all shades of pink at the time, my mother dubbed it Joy’s Pink Phase.

I planted it where she could easily see it from our dining room. In the years since, it hasn’t grown dramatically. Nevertheless, it has always managed to produce a delightful crop of pale pink roses.

Until this year.

The reason eludes me. It could be related to fertilization (too little or too much), pests, insufficient sunshine or water, or something new to me – blind shoots. Alas, none of these conditions seem to fit, and every other rosebush around it is doing well.

The health of the little bush has been on my mind off and on since spring. Not knowing what to do, I’ve done nothing. I’ve told myself, I’ll just wait and see what happens next year.

This week, however, my concern started to feel heavy.

In a few days I’m going to Oregon. My sister and I are planning to visit the beach where we scattered our mother’s ashes. I wanted to take petals from Joy’s Pink Phase and toss them into the waves as we did that sad day four years ago. Instead, I gathered what remained of the last blooms on adjacent bushes. My offering will be a potpourri of red, yellow, orange, purple, white, and bubblegum pink. It’s not an ideal solution. Still, I can find meaning in it because the collection is a representation of the diverse colors she encouraged me to embrace.

As experiences in my garden often do, the dilemma with my mother’s little rosebush got me thinking about other thorny matters in life.

I can’t count the number of times in 64 years I’ve been confronted with situations that had no perfect answers. Should I have another child? Should I forgive this hurt? Should I move to another state? No decision came with a guarantee that it was the one and only, absolutely correct path. Yet, every action moved me forward to the content place where I now materially and spiritually reside.

Of course, my personal predicaments pale spectacularly in comparison to the bewildering and hideous things happening in our world today. You can’t turn on the news without hearing about some new atrocity. Most days it’s too much to absorb.

Sadly, there are no charms to cast or magic lamp to rub in times of trouble. But I know this. It’s easy to feel helpless and hopeless and decide to do nothing when the perfect answer eludes us. It’s easy to think, I’ll just wait and see what happens. The problem is, while we’re waiting, the problems have our permission to grow.

I hope that’s not the case with Joy’s Pink Phase. I hope there’s still time to embark on a reasonable course of action before it’s too late. Because, in the end, I want those pretty, blush roses to bloom again. In fact, I want them to cover the whole, damn world.

2 - Joy's Pink Phase