I grew up in a nice town, a town with moderate homes and well tended yards. Our yard was big enough for a swing set and games of tag and waffle ball but small enough for my mother to manage a nice garden and lawn. The grass was mowed weekly and the weeds pulled. There wasn’t an errant plant to be found. The wildlife included some squirrels, a few nondescript birds and typical insects – a few beetles on the roses, mosquitoes at night and if you dug deep enough some earth works. This was a lovely and manageable place to live where I loved being outside and longed to have a garden of my own one day. I spent most of my life in that town but then I moved.
If you’ve read any of the past blogs you might know that I am a new homeowner. I bought a small house with a yard far larger than I had grown up with. I had visions of growing vegetable and flowers and sitting on the lawn in the sun. I moved less than eight miles away from where I grew up but I feel like I am in another world, a jungle filled with strange and poisonous plants and animals that I have never seen. There is a groundhog that wanders through the yard back to his home under the neighbor’s shed, wild turkeys scare me in the early mornings and the world’s largest chipmunk sits on my steps eyeing my cilantro plant. He must be a Mexican chipmunk. The amount of birds that perch in my two trees is reminiscent of the bird house at the National Zoo and they spread plenty of fertilizer…on my lawn chairs, car and hammock. Of course there are also typical squirrels, random neighborhood cats and an occasional dog. I don’t even know where to begin with the insects. There are little ants and some big ones, beetles, weird yellow bugs, some dinosaur looking brown bugs, of course swarms of mosquitoes and the other day there was a giant (ok just big for a bug but seemingly giant) red bug on my screen door.
Beyond the fauna, it’s the flora that is the problem. I have a neighbor who had a lovely stockade fence put in between our properties. The fence seems to have been built in 1932 and is missing about 3 sections which were never repaired. Now a large mass of weeds, somewhat attractive wild flowers and just plain old nasty grasses have grown unruly and unkempt between the two properties. There is also an out of control mass of Virginia creeper seeping over the parts of the fence that are, well, still fence. I tried to clean up my section of that overgrown mess and unknowingly encountered some poison ivy. I never saw it still can’t when I go looking for the poisonous scamp, but I have it. I’ve never had poison ivy before because my mother keeps and exceptionally well groomed yard. She wouldn’t stand for it but, I have it now and I have over about one third of my body. It turns out that I am one of those people who is hypersensitive to it so when I get it, it requires a trip to the doctor and steroids. I hope I don’t start having fits of rage and grow al little penis. That would not be good.
So my childhood dreams of a beautiful garden now seem like treacherous pirate stories where I wade cautiously though the sea of hazardous waste and mythical creatures. I look at every leaf I touch and wipe down chairs before I sit. I wince every time I see a minute winged creature fly by. I refuse however to be a prisoner of my own yard fear and will conquer this fear. I will conquer this fear as soon as the landscaper I’ve hired assures me that any plant that will send me to doctor is gone, eradicated from the landscape of my nightmare and then maybe my dreams of beautiful flowers and butterflies will return. Until then, I will stay inside.