I’ve never been a big fan of dirt. I like the idea of dirt, though, and especially of gardens. I’ve planted quite a few, always started with grandiose plans but inevitably ended with a tangle of competing plants. Several ended up back as lawn, or under trucked-in outbuildings.
I went to a farm school where one was required to shovel shit, and had to spend each semester planting and tilling fields. For years, the smell of cow plop equaled academia in my mind. After years of watching my son gag every time I brought up my alma mater as a possible alternative for his stalled schooling, I’m finally okay with my choice to keep my hands clean.
Which doesn’t mean I don’t love planning gardens, or shopping local nurseries for whatever my wife says she can grow under partial shade. I’ll lug the stuff home, dig the holes for our hostas, ferns, daylilies and things whose names I can never remember. I trim bushes and trees, paint decks, fix fences (up to a point). I google ways to get a controlled stand of bamboo up and running.
I admire and love those who get their hands dirty and like it. I’ll make lunch and dinner for them, mix soothing beverages to sip while they toil. When we travel, we always hit whatever botanical garden is near our destination.
My mother was too impatient to plant things, which may have been why she lived in the rainforest of Alaska so many years. My father taught me how to delegate gardening to others.
You can count on me to get a trash bag out of the high branches of a tree, or the remnants of a mysterious handmade kite off nearby electric wires. I can hire the right person for bigger jobs, and make sure they get paid.
Just as long as I don’t have to clean under my nails or wear gloves. Or, for that matter, defend my inability to live up to what I was schooled for.
Read more installments of Village Voices by Paul Smart.