People make progress but do not reach perfection because imperfection is the nature of the beast. — Idiom
This morning it is straight to coffee, not my usual glass of lemon water, as I eye a tentacle of bindweed growing inside?! ... yes that beast is inside! ... our "Board Room" the name we have given our five-six-seven?-year-and-counting back porch renovation project. The coffee because I didn't sleep very well wondering just what it was, or is, scratching in the bedroom wall because it sounds much larger than a mouse. It is a dark and stormy morning and there are new leaks in the yet to be renovated roof. All the gutters are clogged and water is falling like Niagra from their rims. There is a tiny trickle running down the rain chain that is, when the gutter is not clogged which is perhaps 1% of the time, a wonderful sight to behold when it rains. And so it goes.
I had such high hopes for this summer. I was going to spend beautifully North temperate summer days toiling in the garden for which I would be rewarded for my hard work with flourishing blooms and tasty vegetables. I would open my gallery and occasionally receive the stray curious-cat-of-a-customer who might just buy a piece of art. I would enjoy the sighting of a new bird or butterfly visiting the garden because I would be present and immersed.
SFX: Lightning flash. Thunderous boom. Scratched vinyl.
It is not so. I am embarrassed by the state of the garden, in spite of my toiling, and afraid to hang my sign for fear of extremely disappointed customers. My neighbor has grown a field of sunflowers, literally, at least a 100 among straw and I should think any potential customer of mine might be confused as to which property is the art studio and garden and to just where the property lines even are since my neighbor has planted right up to the line. The sunflowers I attempted to plant? Eaten by ants that I've resorted to feeding sugar and boric acid on more than one occasion. I spend my days stressed in the garden swearing like the ancestral sailor I must be. The basil and cilantro seeds I've sown like a thousand times must be eaten by snails as evidenced by the holy chard and kale. Ironically, I remember the day I was so excited to find a, as in one, snail in the garden taking it for a promising sign of the wilderness I was trying to build at that point. Ha! The bindweed grows a foot a day. The rudbeckia and cup plant refuse to die. The perennial sunflower and Joe-pye are walking all over me. Susan is unabashedly flaunting herself, the whore! If bindweed isn't bad enough, there is bishops weed which has mysteriously appeared just about everywhere. And once that is hacked down, and the bindweed pulled, then there are grape vines to wrestle from the trees and saplings to mow down that I (fluently) swear grow overnight. Once all is clipped, I circle about and repeat. I could do this dance five times a day and ... well, such is the nature of the beast. Progress is very, very slow but alas everything is progress. Still, I'm afraid that instead of claiming creator of a beautiful wildlife garden, I've made a rather large jungle of a mistake as I eye the grackles swarming the bird feeder. Not the wildlife I had hoped for either. I secretly admit to myself (and you) — that it would be so much easier to hack it all down and grow grass that is simply mowed and become the very thing that I have admonished for so long!
There are some things that redeem themselves. The morning glory that has finally taken off is absolutely true to its name, glorious. The clematis that has finally wound its way through the Dogwood shrub is quite a looker. The last ditch effort to thwart the bishops weed with some native plants is working — Doll's Eye is rising above and is quite eye-popping or, er, will be. The trumpet vine is gorgeous in bloom. When Joe and Susan start flirting it will be so romantic. I love watching the trees grow even if they grow more slowly than the grape vines. Queen of the Prairie! — I don't need to introduce her. The winterberry shrubs, when revealed, have grown considerably. Miss Spikenard has risen from ashes and I promised her I wouldn't ignore her this year but I have so far because she is in the back nine and I haven't quite gotten past the bindweed barrens. Black Lace is growing unbelievably large this year due to all the rain I am assuming. The common Milkweed masses, still growing out front because that is where they want to be, were beautiful in bloom and smelled delicious even if I have yet to see a Monarch in the garden. The back patio in the Potager with the backdrop of Red Elderberry, is a peaceful place to sit and list all the things that need doing in my spinning head. The bursting red berries are now completely stripped, indicating the birds did enjoy them even if I didn't witness their dining experience. (Red elderberries are not edible for us.) So, there are a few rewards but mostly it has been all out war. Tomorrow, given a bit of sunshine and dryness, I will don my camo and weaponry and send myself into battle once again. I feel like I should pick up some kind of bugle to announce the attack.
These flowers will soon turn to white berries with deep purple "pupils" resembling dolls eyes, hence the name.
It is a battle for me, this jungle of a garden that I've burdened myself with. Admittedly, it has become a burden and less a source of joy with each weed I pull. Another battle of mine, this "entrepreneurialship." I struggle with the fact that I barely contribute to our income. Among friends I jokingly comment that "I work for free," only it really isn't a joking matter for me. It is a running commentary in my head on a daily basis. ... I need to get a "real" job. I need to contribute more. I will do all the cooking and cleaning since I "don't work." I need to produce. I need to be more disciplined. I need to improve. I need to change so many things perhaps including accepting myself. Am I really embarrassed of the garden or just afraid? I need to put that sign out there regardless. I need to make more of an effort to do business. My husband is a natural entrepreneur and it easily comes to him. He gives me advice that sounds so simple and I think, yes, but when I try to implement something, I fall apart. I know that I belong in a cube — again, the very thing that I've admonished for so long! — in a 9 to 5er, being told what to do and completely happy with my steady check, complaining about overtime with vacation time that is actually spent vacationing and an office/job to leave behind at the end of the day. It's safe, it's compartmentalized, it's scheduled and I imagine I would probably be happier day to day and feel more accomplished. But this lifestyle, this freedom to work in our own way on our own schedules is really what we strive for. It's creative. It pays in different ways. It's just that one of us isn't so successful at juggling it or the income level and well, such is the nature of the beast. I take blood pressure pills. I continue to gain weight.
So, as I sit here in the Board Room with the bindweed growing through the walls, I contemplate. Ticking off the new career paths I shan't begin because it will limit our freedom. Sighing with the already depleted energy of beginning yet again. Staving off dangerously depressed thoughts and attempting to remain positive. Spiraling, landing and eventually relaxing into a transitional state of mind whereby we sell the house-of-a-1000-projects in the 1000 Islands with our (my) 1000s of problems and mistakes, and retreat to the sanctity and simplicity of the lake where our next project is to build a studio/meditation/guitar room (the midas touch hubby is learning to play the blues and believe me he will probably become a rock star) close to the lake and dock with maintenance free materials. I look forward to more time expended painting watercolors, creating, cooking instead of weed pulling and house renovation. The mantra is keep your eye on the prize.
It is bitter sweet communing with the garden. I've already decided that I won't be adding any more plants — a little too late if I do say so. Ha! I am giving up on bringing it into any type of glory and simply managing it into something presentable. Presentable as in PUT OUT YOUR SIDEWALK SIGN and chin up! The art is there. Simply don't garden tour the back 9 (until you finally get to weeding it). Presentable as in HOUSE FOR SALE with private, well-landscaped back yard. It seems so sad to reduce the Violet Fern Garden to this. I have whispered to the Pin Oak to please shed acorns so that I may plant your sister at the lake. Do I dare try to dig up and transport the Tulip Tree? Sigh, it is too large and I don't dare dig, transport and plant at the lake for fear of also bringing bind or bishops weed along for the ride. Yet in this bitterness, this stubborn gardener is already making new plans. And believe me I have learned from my many mistakes. Vegetables, ornamental flowers and herbs will be grown on the wrap around deck of the yet-to-be-built lake house in containers close to the kitchen and far from deer. I reiterate, there will not be any "gardening" per say at the lake, only enhancing the landscape with native plants. No weeding, no mulching, no mowing. The house will NOT have any gutters. The rain chain? Well maybe from a tree limb because I love that thing. The heron sculpture and other "ornaments" will come along. The greenhouse stays with the house. The wine garden (bottle border) stays. I take comfort — this is not really good bye. A simple tray of water at the lake on a stump attracted four chickadees, two black-and-white warblers, two cedar waxwing and a bird I've yet to identify all within the span of 20 minutes. The Violet Fern Garden divides herself and roams about as freely as I do. The Violet Fern Garden moves in spirit and transplants, transitions to the lake, to Cedar Kottage, to a remote, more generous and frightfully dangerous place in which she can grow wildly out of control. This is truly exciting and worth living.
The place is wild and beautiful and also dangerous – that's the nature of the beast. — Idiom
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Author Kathy Sturr
In this blog I may write about the garden, flowers, plants, and the garden ... mostly the garden, but also new art and inspiration.