My Garden is Nicer Than Yours. And I Have the Name Badge to Prove It.

Yesterday was the annual Garden Walk in our fair cities, where gardening is a religion.  The Garden Walk is an event where you pay lots of money to walk through other people's gardens that are much nicer than yours will ever be.  Like many religious ceremonies which purport to inspire you to transcend your human flaws and encourage you to be a better person, this one shows you examples of what you should aspire to be, highlights your sins (envy, sloth, greed), and leaves you feeling grovelly and inadequate. 

To combat this, my sons and I made fun of the plethora of floppy straw hats and unflattering khaki shorts.  Also, as a defense mechanism against my feelings of inadequacy, we made a little list of the ten most inappropriate things you can do on a Garden Walk, which you can read below, and possibly use if you are ever in this situation.

 Ten Inappropriate Things To Do on a Garden Walk

  • Enter carrying a large container of Round-Up.
  • Leave with a large bag of plant/herb clippings, and/or harvested fruit and shout, "Thanks!" on your way out.
  • Ring all of the obligatory wind chimes really, really loudly.
  • Gasp in horror when one of the green-shirted helpers can't tell you the name of a particular plant, and shout, "Does the authority of that stick-on (Garden Walk Guide) name badge mean NOTHING to you???"
  • Sit down at the obligatory tiny decorative cafe table and loudly call out, "Can I get two glasses of Chardonnay over here, please?'
  • Scream, "snake!" and roll around on the ground clutching your leg, threatening to sue the owner of the garden.
  • Ask if you can purchase a VIP pass to enter any roped-off areas.
  • Pee in the obligatory fountain, pond, or artificial waterfall.
  • Brandish a small fishing net over the obligatory koi pond and ask if anyone knows how to cook large goldfish.
  • Stand in front of the really large ostentatious gardens with signs picketing the use of migrant labor.

Most of the gardens were made up of tiny stone paths crowded with slow-moving old ladies.  When Jacob stepped deftly in front of one lady with a cane, I hissed at him.  He said, "I had to.  We're in the wild.  It's survival of the fittest."  Later when we were handed a map of another garden, he scanned it and then said, in a loud voice, "I need a 'You Are Here!'  How else will I find my way out?"

At that same house, a green-shirted helper told us that the huge oak tree smack in the middle of the lawn had a face carved into it and that she would be happy to point it out to us.  "Oh good," someone who might have been me whispered to the boys.  "Because we would definitely have missed it otherwise."

And it turned out that it wasn't really a "carving," but more like three protrusions shaped like two eyes and some lips which made the tree look like it wanted to make out with you.  Still, like the "bottle trees" in the next garden (glass bottles arranged on bent wires to look like trees, apparently a "Southern tradition designed to ward off evil spirits," perhaps in the form of trees with big lips), we saw some cool stuff (such as a lovely canopy over a fancy dining area and outdoor TV, which I'm sure the neighbors appreciated).  And the boys and I had fun, which made a nice change from me screaming at them to turn down their stupid video games. 

It was informative too.  "Do you think they made those trees so they could collect all those bottles as an excuse to get blind drunk?"  Noah asked.  "Hey, did I tell you there's this girl at school who sips vodka out of her water bottles all day?  I've seen her do it three days in a row."

Just another quality family weekend out here on the praire.


Envy
 

This rose-tree is not made to bear
The violet blue, nor lily fair,
   Nor the sweet mignionet:
And if this tree were discontent,
Or wished to change its natural bent,
   It all in vain would fret.
And should it fret, you would suppose
It ne’er had seen its own red rose,
   Nor after gentle shower
Had ever smelled its rose’s scent,
Or it could ne’er be discontent
   With its own pretty flower.
Like such a blind and senseless tree
As I’ve imagined this to be,
   All envious persons are:
With care and culture all may find
Some pretty flower in their own mind,
   Some talent that is rare.
Mary Lamb, (1764–1847)
[Note: No offense to any of the gardeners who opened their yards to us yesterday is meant.  Keep up the good work, and we'll see you next year.  Hopefully anything Gabe trampled on will have grown back by then

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leslie Srajek blogs at From the Heart and has a therapeutic writing practice called Heartland Writing in Urbana, IL.

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