I wouldn’t call myself a gardener. I don’t love it, but I love the idea of it. Mental pictures of a perfectly ordered garden — lush, green grass sloping down toward beautiful bushes full of blooms: hydrangeas, poppies, peonies, and roses — fills me with a giddy kind of joy and contentment. I imagine a riot of color, attracting butterflies, bees, and birds to my back-yard oasis. And a maze. Somehow, there’s always a maze in my imagined garden. What can I say? The available real estate in my mind is vast and untamed. The available real estate in my back yard is about the size of a postage stamp. Okay, maybe two postage stamps taped together, if we’re being generous. So, yes … in my mind, I love gardening and everything to do with it. It seems like a perfect fit — out communing with nature, turning over the cool, rich soil in my hands, singing Disney songs with the squirrels and chipmunks.
In reality … not so much. It’s back-breaking work that I find less than rewarding. I don’t like getting dirt under my fingernails or ground into my skin. I’m afraid of spiders — and most other bugs, too, truth be told. I’m allergic to pretty much everything that grows or blows around on the wind outside. And, if a squirrel came up and tried to sing with me, I would probably think it was rabid. The thought of this, alone, is enough to send me running toward the house, crying for my mama.
But, a few weeks ago, the “great outdoors” and I collided. It was a long time coming and, quite frankly, unavoidable for both of us. You see, my house has a front flower bed. And, when we bought the place and moved in, there were some juniper bushes planted there. These were not huge bushes. They were low-growing, prickly-spiky sorts of things that just sort of sat there and added nothing to the landscape. Well, nothing except for a hearty dose of “Hey, you! Get away from our house! We’re prickly and not friendly or happy! Grrr!” Seriously, if plants could talk, that’s what these bushes would have been saying. The first thing I wanted to do after taking ownership of the house was to pull those darn bushes out. Everyone told me to leave them. My hubby said it would be too much trouble to pull them out. My parents told me the bushes were “pretty” and that I was only trying to change things for the sake of changing them. But I didn’t care. I hated those bushes. HATED THEM. They had to go.
But … life happened. I had a kid. I lost a dog. I got a new dog. And another dog. And two hamsters. And volunteered at preschool and then elementary school. And then Girl Scouts. Somehow, when I wasn’t looking, ten years zoomed by. And I was still walking out of my front door, looking at (and, often, stumbling over … because it had grossly overgrown the confines of its bed) this darn plant that I despised. Call it apathy. Call it laziness. Call it being overwhelmed by life. Call it whatever. The juniper was still there, still going strong. And I hated it more than ever. It had become more than a plant. It had, somehow, become a symbol of everything I don’t love about my house.
No more. On that day, I had had enough. It was time to begin the long task of wiping the slate clean for me and for this house. While my kiddo was a couple of houses down, trading Pokemon cards with a friend, I got out the pruning shears. I cut. I lopped. I demolished with a brutal zeal that, really, should have frightened me. But it didn’t. Instead, it only drove me on. And now, the juniper is gone. Mostly. I still need to dig out the last few roots. But, for now, it’s enough to know I won’t have to look at that prickly mess any longer. For now, I am content.
What will I plant there? I have no idea. For now, I am enjoying the empty space — the utter lack of anything sharp, prickly, and uninviting. I think that’s enough for the winter. Soon, it will be spring — a time when every girl’s mind dwells on one eternal question: Can I fit a hedge maze into this flowerbed?