Monday, August 13, 2007

Garden Startle

Gardening is not always restful. In fact, sometimes it can swing us rapidly from flight to fight and back again.

Once, several years ago, I was weeding (surely seen as one of the most tedious and dull activities on the planet - I remember getting quite eloquent on this score when discussing weeding under my breath as a child "laborer"). I've mentioned before that our gardens are made almost entirely of raised beds, held together with dry-stack stone - no mortar. With my mind in a numbed state from the job at hand (ever notice that weeding can be a totally non-verbal task? It is, in fact, best performed when you allow your mind to slip into a more right-brained mode, not identifying things by name. In this way you can see the plants which are "squatting" in your beds (no right to be there) more easily. They just "pop" out at you. Is the suspense building as I take all these tangents?) I find weeding can be like valium. (Children can't appreciate this because life has not yet put them in need of tranquilizers; kids believe adults have over-rated tranquility.) I noticed a bit of buried soaker hose had moved in the bed so that two bends of it stuck out from between the stones.

Wait a minute. I don't use soaker hoses. And why does this black hose have scales? Hardly believing what I saw (and with my pulse already doubled in the usual human reaction to long creatures with NO LEGS) I picked up a nearby straw and gently poked the hose. As expected it swelled up. I did not actually hear a hiss (where was the snake's head anyway?!) but I felt as if I had. I involuntarily took several steps backward and let out a loud, "Woh-ho-ho-ho!" Here in front of me was an isolated piece of live snake, just five inches or so, with no head or tail. Like a sentence fragment.

After the brief adrenaline rush, my reason stepped back in and reminded me that glossy black snakes, in this part of the world, are beneficial.

Then I thought of our beloved ugly toads! (We sometimes go out at night and find several of these so-ugly-lovely beasties in the driveway and under the street lamp. We love them.) Was the snake eating them? A brief wave of passion flowed over me. ShouId I kill the scaly trespasser? Was he poaching toads on my preserve? (Oh my, I picture poached toads on toast.) A shudder ran up my spine at the horrible and too tactile thought of trying to pull the interloper out of the stones.

But reason again prevailed (or was it cowardice?) - let nature take its course!

Moomin Light long ago stopped stepping into the dense centers of the flowerbeds to deadhead or pick. Too risky.

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