Coffee this morning with my ten-year-old, while she ate cereal. I was writing a list for the today and listening to music on my laptop, when my child suddenly burst out laughing. “I basically know this song by heart! My teacher loves it.” Aretha Franklin: R-E-S-P-E-C-T. I laughed, too.
I acknowledge today, in full respect of their great strength and prickliness, the wild raspberries are winning the garden battle. In particular, crouching under the mighty asparagus, weeds of all tenor and tenacity — clover, smart weed, invasive buttercup — are thriving. I knew, going into the summer and facing more work hours and one less mouth to feed, that I had to scale down in some way on a garden already about as large as I could handle. I’ve cover cropped a few beds, planted potatoes that are about the easiest things to grow, and maniacally mulched. Nonetheless, areas of the garden are wholly lacking joy. It’s problematic, for instance, to let your fence fall down in deer territory. While I feel convinced, in my female household, that the girls and I are holding things up, there are times when a few hours of male labor would shore things a little straighter. Is it really a solution to let wild raspberries become my garden fence, in a strange rendition of the sleeping beauty fairytale? Where’s the line between winning the battle, being pathetic, and getting along?
So, that single word stayed with me in the garden – respect – while I pruned the tomatoes and thinned the corn and stood staring into the woods, eating peas in their tender shells. It’s easy to respect those I love, but difficult to muster down deep any kind of affinity for those who tear at me: the raspberry canes, for instance, and the far more wicked and intrepid blackberries that have punctured the soles of my shoes.
My daughter and her friend came to find me, wanting to cook dinner outside. I lifted my shirt from the ground and pulled it on. In one sleeve, on my bare and dirty arm, I touched a slug. Repulsed, I dropped the shirt. Then, while the children ran off on their project, I knelt and, with one finger, extracted that brown slug from my shirt, a gelatinous, clammy creature. I carried it outside the garden and laid the fat thing in the ferns. My fingers were smeared with a brownish-yellow stickiness. The slug inched its way, painfully slowly, beneath the fern and disappeared.
Who could have dreamed them up? At least snails
have shells, but all these have is—nothing…
– Brian Swann