If there is a Gardening God, I am curious to see where he would grade me on various aspects of his or her domain. I think he would view me like a benevolent, brilliant professor regards his loyal, funny but idiot pupil. ‘See thee down there’, he shall boom to his godlings, ‘there goeth the very example of exemplary gardening intent. If ever you want to know how to admire a fallen leaf, thou can gaze down at her. She and her progeny are always bending or squatting and looking at something marvelous. Sometimes, when I am bored, I send out the snails to see the enthusiasm thee here summoneth up. But send her lobelia, geraniums, petunia, primroses and violets together, and she will still, after all those years, not be able to tell you the difference.’
“If you pusheth me, I may give her a pass with the planning, but will send to Earthly Exile the next godling who suggests she gardens well. “ This is where he shakes his head and the clouds above spatter a few drops of rain on the Earth below, and the parched trees in my backyard gulp and send thanks to the Gods above, for I forgot to water them for a few days.
Why, you ask, do you assume that a Gardening God talks like someone escaped out of a badly written 17th century book? I don’t know – in my mind, this gardening god looks like a gnome with a long flowing beard, a brown hat that looks like an upturned nest, a booming voice and language like he was happy to not be written into one of Shakespeare’s books.
Anyway, back to the point of our garden. Very near our backyard is a marvelous tree. Home to thousands of leaves, hundreds of twigs and branches, and scores of birds and squirrels, this tree offers shade and respite to a person who wishes for a few quiet moments. But every time the tree so much as shivers or flutters in the breeze, it sends ten thousand leaves straight to the narrow strip of garden in my backyard.
This is where the ex. intent plays its trump card: I declare, rather grandly for one who has failed at this task for almost a decade, that I shall gather up the leaves and have a clean backyard. I say this vehemently for a week or so, as though the sheer force behind the voice will collect, bag and compost the leaves. When that plan fails, I wait to see if anyone in the house will be gallant enough to say, “No, no. You rest. I shall shovel and clean the backyard.” But of course, everybody in the house is too wise for that. This is when I start shamelessly sighing and dropping “hints”.
Ahh! I wish I can do those leaves, but these allergies of mine, they just don’t let up you know. AAAACCHOOO!
Nothing. A brief silence and then I hear the jarring song to which the husband and children are dancing rise in volume by a few decibels. This goes on for another few weeks, by which time the sycamore tree’s leaves have figured out that the best place to fall is our backyard because they don’t have to flutter on to hard earth anymore and can simply cushion their fall on their already fallen brethren.
Next up: I try the guilt-tripping with the make-it-a-jolly-family-activity technique.
Rake, rake rake your way merrily through the leaves. I sing as I rake. (The Lyrical God joins the Gardening one above and they observe the specimen below to see where they went wrong with this model)
I manage to pile up the leaves with my enthusiastic, but equally unskilled helpers, the children, when the sneezing starts. But of course, I don’t stop and soldier on. The husband is tactfully finding himself outside tasks to do – service the car, go to the bank, grocery shopping, clean the rooftop. Anything at all but gardening.
At the end of it all, the day is ripe and getting on. There is a huge pile of leaves, weeds tumbling over one another all over the backyard waiting to be removed, no lunch, three cups of tea and sneezing enough to rattle a herd of elephants. Meanwhile, the wind hears about the gardening action in our backyard and comes a-howling. The leaves spatter yet again and I curse using some very imaginative phrases, making the toddler look up in alarm and say, “Stupid is a bad word!”
By this time of course, everybody is fed up with me and will gladly let me dangle like a wind-chime on the apricot tree. Enough, I say to myself and make a call to the kind soul who helps out every once in a while. This narrow strip of garden is home to some trees, a jasmine creeper and some flower bushes. The gardener makes it generally known that he is doing it solely because he views it as acquiring some good karma: Help thy helpless, share thy green thumb or some such.
He comes with his pal in his pickup truck, and I kid you not: the pair of them clean up, de-weed, plant new flowers, prune the roses and hose down the garden leaving the patch looking beautiful and well-nourished in about an hour.
I think it is divine intervention: for how long can even the most tolerant Gardening God behold our garden’s plight?