“Many things grow in the garden that were never sown there.”
- Thomas Fuller, Gnomologia, 1732
Before I arrived at this blissful state – which is nothing more ambitious than universal tolerance of one’s neighbors – I fought and lost a war.
I'll tell you how the war went, but first a digression.
I live about 10 blocks from a dead end street called Mac Ronald. Really. My ex-urb has been upgraded by McMansions: bloated pink stucco edifices with protruding bay windows and non-functional ornamental touches with their price tags still attached. The nearby newer homes look like a bad case of adolescent acne, infesting the once rosy cheeks of my neighborhood landscapes.
I wouldn’t mind it so much if the new neighbors had good taste. But seriously: a round house sticking out of a lovely hill like the hilt of knife in your ribcage? It turns! Why? Well, because these patriotic Americans didn’t want to settle for 180 degrees, when they could afford 360. Or a bell freakin’ tower teetering over a morbidly obese single story shotgun shack, drifting away in a sea of faux clay roof tiles.
When I see scorched earth landscaping I know an old house is to be sold. First, fifty years of native and naturalized vegetation that once protected rural privacy must be replaced and re-landscaped to improve curb appeal. Once revealed from the street, the older, more modest, eclecticly funky homes must also get cosmetic surgery to tart them up like whores at an AARP convention.
But back to my war on literal and metaphorical rats that harvested my vegetable gardens.
Until recently, I tried to stem the tide of rats, mice et. al. Last week I told the guy who comes by weekly to kill the mice I didn’t want to renew his services. He says the coverage for poisoning gophers still has a year to run, and I and might as well have him continue in the front yard. (To some my front yard might be appallingly neglected. To me, it’s a habitat that supports smaller creatures like birds, bees and feral cats as long as the gophers are kept in check). I said ok on the front, but leave the back yard alone. Also, I did not tell him to be on the lookout for a gopher with dill-stained freakishly infantile opposable thumbs.
Now it’s time to negotiate some sort of mutual tolerance in my garden - I mean, in our garden. Perhaps sensing the seasonal karma, I refuse to continue poisoning the insurgents. That would defeat the purpose of growing things in the first place – to create life. That would be to fail to negotiate with the natives and jump straight to the final solution: the scorched earth policy employed by Mother Nature and her henchman Killing Frost. My lovely cabbages and hybrid purple broccoli are jet-setting arrivistes in the back yard, occupying the empty palaces of a once great empire, populated by strange natives who I have failed to understand. Genocide is not the answer.
Peace is what gardening is about, and, I am beginning to think, it’s what life beyond my garden gate is about too. People live and die, just like gardens and other creatures who inhabit them. Just like my vegetable and ornamental garden occupants have a season to live and to die, perhaps so do we as a species. And so too, the tumble-down old houses on Mac Ronald.