Monday, March 09, 2009


“I like seasons.”
A tourist from Idaho visiting The Garden in March

I volunteer in a local public garden, spending one morning a week engaging the squirrels and rabbits in battles over doomed vegetables. When I greet visitors on such occasions, as a docent and representative of the Garden, I am polite, informative and a generally all-around nice person.

So, after complimenting me personally on the lovely warm sunny morning I’d arranged for her visit (ha ha), the recent visitor said she’s only in town for a few days visiting family, and then she and her spouse return to Idaho because, and I quote: I like seasons. In my capacity as a docent, I gritted my teeth and laughed at her original little joke as if I’d never heard it before, refrained from whacking her with my pitchfork, and returned to turning the compost pile - perhaps with a bit more vigor than before our brief conversation.

But here’s what I was thinking.

Here’s the thing, you yokel. As a gardener, I actually do notice seasonal change in my climate. Your moronic observation is not only wrong, it assumes we’re all Philistines who take the easy way out and enjoy our perfect Eden in our perfect and unchanging climate, while you and your hardy brethren build character and muscles “enjoying” your fancy-schmancy real seasons up there in Idaho.

We have seasons, sister. The thing is, our seasons might be a bit too subtle for you. Our winter doesn’t reach through the storm windows and shake you by the neck this time of year. We don’t carry umbrellas nine months a year; we don’t shovel snow or rake leaves; or undertake other endless seasonal chores to magically improve our bodies and minds struggling through changing seasons.

People like you who expect the seasons to smack them in the face with a different collection of sights, sounds, smells every few months might not notice our seasons. Our autumn doesn’t announce itself by causing the entire landscape to turn gaudy shades of red and yellow before curling up, turning brown, and falling off the trees and bushes. Our spring doesn’t knock us over with a riot of color as everything awakens from hibernation and blooms in the same ten minutes, making sales of benedril spike. Our summer isn’t damp and moldy with 95% humidity, when your sweat makes you stick to your sheets as you toss and turn through the night, swatting mosquitoes you hope don’t infect you with exotic diseases. And yes, we don’t shovel snow or slide into each other like bumper cars on ice every winter.

In winter here, many of the Southern Hemisphere Mediterranean climate natives - like grevallia (pictured here) and gum trees - bloom at the same time their relatives are blooming in the Australian summer. As a tourist from Idaho, you probably didn’t notice that spring is coming. It’s not here yet, but the orange blossoms on the orange tree in my front yard will knock you out if you approach closer than about ten steps. The air is warmer, not as dry as later in the summer, and filled with mysterious promise and new scents as winter departs and spring approaches. In autumn, the summer population of birds departs and we hear the flocks of wild parrots yammering overhead as they move farther south.

In winter we have to wear sweaters some mornings, and we greet the rain with joy and abandon. Unlike the summer rain of my childhood in a “real” climate, when we put on our bathing suits and cavorted in the street, rain here is cold and discourages fun. When my daughter was young, we’d put on our boots and raincoats in the first rain, and walk to the top of a nearby street and make little rafts out of eucalyptus leaves and twigs and sail them down the gutter. Then we’d come home and drink hot chocolate – celebrating the seasonal change that you might have missed because you were too busy disparaging our climate simply because it’s a bit different from yours.

There. That feels better.


el said...

I'd have throttled her.

My friend Stan moved home to Thousand Oaks after 15 years in the wilderness of Minneapolis and now as a homeowner there he's been actually fairly exasperated. "El, the shit doesn't stop growing," he lamented. At least in MN he didn't need to think about his garden for 6 months of the year...

tina said...

You are so funny. And I bet the visitor from Idaho never knows what exactly you are thinking and it is probably a good thing docents don't get to handle pitchforks while working!

I think when folks make this one make these kinds of comments, it is simply to differentiate their particular area in a general way from yours, and not to down your area. It is the human way as you know. More of a conversational thing. It would be perfectly appropriate to tell them you DO have seasons. We all do, though they are all different. That in my opinion, is the beauty of the world, humans and life. We are different and it okay.

Edward said...

Excellent blog. There just aren't enough gardeners with attitude in my opinion. Your restraint was admirable, but we received the benefit through reading about it. And I'd never heard the word "docent" before, so another tick in your box.

Wendy said...

I thought a docent was a nun-in-training. I think that's the only time I've heard that word.

Well, I think that lady from Idaho was either just making small talk, as Tina mentioned, or she's jealous that her seasons are so brutal! I would much prefer your gentler ones.

Oh and Happy Birthday!! I guess since you're still in double digits, you're not old at all. LOL!

oldcrow61 said...

Wonderful blog. I love the way you write.

Esther Montgomery said...

I found this post really thought provoking - though, at first, I didn't understand it, I kept saying to myself 'Well, I like seasons too!'.

But they can be wearing as well as pleasant if you have too many of them. We are having about one an hour at the moment.


Milla said...

great blog, I came via Rottie (Edward, to whom I seem to have been married these many years, time in which I've had to parry a few sharp sentences, as you might imagine). What I love about what I've read here is that you could well be really really sinister which makes you trustworthy in a world where so many have to pretend to be so nice. Intoxicating.
I like gardening, too, but the word "doomed" (which you use with regard to vegetables) is chillingly prescient. I seem to be getting worse at all, and crosser, and hotter and redder and the brambles more fierce and the vegetables don't really stand a chance.

walk2write said...

You have to remember, WS, some people just beg for a smack-down, although I wouldn't recommend using a pitchfork. Too messy. I prefer the verbal approach myself to poke a few holes in tourists' notions. Which is probably why I'll never land a job with the state. Here's a respectful comeback you might try, not too sharp or pointy: "you're unique, having that opinion, ma'am (or sir)...just like everyone else."