Weeding

I discovered only a few years ago that I like weeding. There's instant gratification. You see the plant that doesn't belong, you pull on it, and if you're lucky you get the root. Clean margins. Leaving in its place dirt, a kind of dark clean slate. Blank canvas. I think the reason people like gardening so much is because it's a way of doing something while you're doing nothing. Today I was tired and a little worn out and run down. I could feel a slight headache and some body aches, like I'd had acutely last week because of the Taxol. L was saying I should go outside because it was so beautiful. He went off into the wilds of Downstate Illinois for work. I couldn't decide what to do. I wanted to the Little Cafe Down the Street but I thought I shouldn't sit inside. So I got some petunias and banderas (?) that have been waiting on the balcony in their little plastic pots to be planted. I went out front and dug and pulled out a bunch of weeds and planted the flowers.

I've noticed in ads for hospitals and treatments there are often photos of crouching women, spade in hand. Look, I can plant now that my arthritis is under control. Look, I can bring new life into the plant world now that my cancer has been zapped. To me these pictures indicate lack of ambition. They indicate Retirement. Retreat from the real world of achievement. It's as if these people, now that they're cured or no longer in pain, can, well, cultivate their gardens. They can pursue safe avenues. You never see a picture of an angry performance artist saying, Look, now that I'm in remission I can jump on the stage and offend people again. Or a CEO at his desk saying, Look, now that I'm cured I can fire dozens of people again. Does that mean that ambitious people should not stop and plant the flowers? There's a kind of giving up of power in planting. You are following rules. The perennials won't flower all season (I don't think). The annuals won't come back even though you want them to. The shade-loving plants won't flourish in full sun. There is room for creativity: You can be original in your arranging, you can cultivate new species and name them after your friends. You can pollinate by hand, even, pre-empting the bees. But you can't change the rules.

That's the difference, I think, between nature and art.

Years ago when I worked for the Miami Herald an editor suggested I write about amateur orchid growers, focusing on a couple who had lost their only two children in a bizarre plane crash in the city. I met with them and asked them questions about orchids. When I saw pictures of their sons on top of the TV I asked about them, but they didn't want to talk about their dead boys at all. I was in a quandary. My editor had suggested that they were putting their efforts into orchids to channel their grief, but they would have none of it. So I got deeper and deeper into the orchid world, and berated myself because I couldn't get excited about orchids like they and all the other members of orchid societies in South Florida. Finally I wrote the story and it was fine. I wrote about other people's excitement. Over the years I've come to be interested in orchids, in their still, insect-like yet sculptural appearance. I think then I was trying too hard to cultivate my own orchid appreciation.

L and I pretend to be looking for a larger place, one we can live in together full time. He still has his house in Gary, which he frequents and I visit. He will be sad to give it up and says, I'll never be anywhere again where I can plant a sapling and watch it grow for 30 years. This is true.

3 comments:

Stephanie said...

I hate weeding, so much that I put down newspaper as a weed barrier so I don't have to do it much (you put mulch on top so the newspaper doesn't show). I do like gardening, however:I like how it is meditative yet yields tangible results. It's what I like about cooking too.
I think they show women gardening in those pharm ads because it's an acceptably feminine way to be "active." Also, they're not promising too much: "We can't say that you'll go mountain biking, but at least you'll be able to putter around in the yard."

Rodrigo said...

Oi, achei teu blog pelo google tá bem interessante gostei desse post. Quando der dá uma passada pelo meu blog, é sobre camisetas personalizadas, mostra passo a passo como criar uma camiseta personalizada bem maneira. Até mais.

Anonymous said...

I realize the purpose of writers is to analyze everything to what often becomes the point of inanity, but maybe these ads depict women gardening simply because gardening is something many people can relate to: existance as an angry performance artist or CEO is not. I think it's interesting that in your position, you feel that you can pass judgment on who is and isn't "ambitious." I'm not sure a person who gardens (versus a person who keeps an online blog) is automatically rendered insipid by their choice of hobby.