I have been running, sporadically, exercising determinedly and attempting to make some concerted improvements to my overall physical well-being. I live a stones throw away from the Hudson River, well maybe if you’re Roger Clemons or Lefty Grove, but you get the drift, I live close by. I sometimes switch up my run to cover a portion of the river frontage and end with some intense stair climbs on the Amtrak trestle. When I take this route and descend the stairs to make my way home, I have noticed a few unruly weeds that have been getting quite assertive at the entrance of a local restaurant.
This creates such a stir in my, what? Not my groin. Not my heart. Maybe my sense of order? Do I posses a sense of order? In gardening, only, I have a tendency towards clarity and some distinguishable degree of purpose. (We all have our crosses to bear, and I have never pretended to be anything less than quirky.) I live a life with constant disorganization and clutter in paper form all around me. My car gets to a stage of mobile anthropology unit and transporter of folderol quickly and without warning. I spend days searching for that check, or those documents, and that overdue application, they always turn up. They always get piled up and around and reshuffled and piled again. My bed becomes a balancing act of books, papers, magazines that I saw a beautiful picture in, that I can’t yet part with or utilize in some creative genius manner. (I might have tucked the check in that book….)
For these reasons, I love gardening. It gives me this sense of order and control that I am fully capable of managing. It gives me practically instant gratification, the weeding part anyway. It lets me wrestle and tug and struggle without hurting anyone else, or myself. Gardening, essentially let’s me be in charge and gives me power. This past year, I left my garden behind. I can’t describe the depth of sadness and loss this created for me. I was hard to be around this past spring, let me tell you. I fantasized about springing some of my plants and bringing them to my new home. I imagined a covert operation in the pre-dawn hours, and a nighttime rescue effort with night vision goggles and a darling basket to transport my precious seedlings to our new place of glory. I never realized any of my border crossing fantasies. It was time to let go and move on, begrudgingly and with great sadness.
I have created a garden in my new locale. The purpose seems to be cheery brightness and clashing colors of vibrancy and thrill. It conjures an image of my older two children at 3 and 5 years of age. They are dancing at an outdoor concert sponsored by Ben and Jerry’s on Cape Cod. They are dressed brightly in summer fare. They are dancing with such intense grins and speed! Speed that will send one into orbit if her older brother let’s go or loses his grip. They are spinning and twirling and shaking their heads. It made me laugh then, and still. A bit of hysteria, but not without an end. This is what my garden looks like, a bit of hysteria with an end. I have used only annuals. They may not be long lasting but they have gotten me through and are in a constant state of cheeriness. They have a very clear purpose.
So, seeing the assertive weeds after my run gets all that power-tripping juice running. I want to head over and set things straight. Show them who’s in charge. That’s right. That’s what I’m talking about. Until I see the owner in the library and I tremble and the hive thing starts happening. I can’t seem to share my great idea. And I wonder what the hell my problem is and why I don’t start engaging in some more interesting fantasies. I say hello, and leave quietly. A few weeks later, I decide to pack up a folding chair and sit and read at the water’s edge. As I start to go up the stairs, I notice the restaurant owner heading to the restaurant in the early morning and decide, “Oh what the hell, go for it, live on the wild side. ” I try hard not to sound desperate and pathetic about my displacement and phantom garden pains. I try just as hard not to insult him for letting things get, well, so unruly, and disordered. I volunteer my services, he accepts, we part ways and I venture out the next morning, with a cup of coffee and a pair of clippers.
As I am weeding and clipping, I think of another memory. In my early childhood on the mean (they were actually quite mild) streets of Woodside, Queens, I remember this woman. Old (probably 36) with quick, sharp movements, sharp determined features. She dressed in blue from head to toe. Navy blue, kind of. The navy blue only found in that polyester nylon fabric of the early 70’s. Not quite royal, not exactly navy. She has a blue turtleneck, blue stretch pants, more than likely with that sewn in seam deal, I don’t have that level of detail in my memories, ever, but if I had to guess…and she wore a headband, an inch or two thick, navy blue nylon. She used to garden, and I use the term lightly, and feed the pigeons. Pigeons! Rats of the skies, no one fed pigeons. No one who had any sense or purpose, anyway. We referred to her maybe once as the “blue lady”. She didn’t care to interact with us or smile even. Her “garden” was a dusty, clay mound encircling a tree that seemed to be suffering from sadness. Trees there, were few and far between and they lacked color. In hindsight, I would have to guess adequate cellulose was also missing.
I started wondering. Have I become that woman? Will I? I am not sure. I don’t know her story. I did have on my black stretchy running pants, and a stretchy sweatshirt. I was probably making quick, determined movements. I am sure I didn’t feed any pigeons. I am not sure what I impressed upon the restaurant owner, but this is what he gave to me; the thrill of instant gratification, a chance to wield power and control, and wrestle harmlessly, the opportunity to be in an established garden in the early morning hours. Quiet determination, that's me. I wouldn’t mind for it to convey: I am a part of a community with something to give, quirks and all. Maybe it will translate to a sake margarita on the house, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves… It wasn’t as unruly as I might have built it up to be. It looks fine now, after one power-gardening session with me. Oh Yeah, I still have it! Watch Out! I am in the house! And the garden.
Has anyone seen my clippers??? Anyone?