Friday, June 1, 2012

Make haste slowly

Next week we are gutting our 1942-era kitchen all the way to the studs and starting a summer-long remodel. The contractor comes on Thursday. We are hosting a party on Wednesday. Naturally, these two circumstances are conspiring to create just a wee bit of chaos in the Bike Garden.

Party inside, among the dust and mess of emptying the kitchen? Party outside, among the ragged remains and construction wreck* that is the former glorious back garden? Decisions, decisions.

Either way, as an introvert I find the hosting of a party stressful even under ideal conditions, but when my house is a disaster inside and out, well...

Speaking of which, have you ever noticed that when you host a party, if you have even one messy room--say the one where you toss everything at the last minute and close it off just because you don't have time to clean every freaking square inch of the house--certain guests will always find their way into that room? It is as if some people are just not happy until they discover where you hide your clutter. Or maybe that's too harsh. Maybe, like my cat, they just can't abide not knowing what is behind a close door. In either case, I've decided that it is a law of the universe, because it has happened every time we've hosted a party. Every. Single. Time.

I find that the same thing happens in the garden. People saunter through the nice part, looking bored, until they happen to notice that there is this one little spot, tucked out of sight behind a fence...

I, of course, knowing that this is where I have piled the uncurled, squirrel-ravaged hoses, the broken rocks, the bags of sand, the scrambled chicken wire, the seven thousand or so empty plastic pots I have yet to recycle, make the mistake of saying, "Oh don't go there. That part's not finished yet."

Susan, Susan, Susan. Will I never learn? Because naturally this disclaimer creates the exact opposite of the desired effect, causing them instead to rush to the very place I want to hide in order to see what is there. Do I imagine a satisfied smirk when they gaze upon the shambles that await?

I dunno. Maybe it is just my imagination. Maybe people aren't looking for garden warts for the express purpose of satisfying themselves that I am not, in fact, a garden goddess. Maybe, as with the closed door of the house, they just want to see what's behind that fence.

(Listen, people, for the record, if I ever want you to see that part of the garden, I will take you by the hand and lead you there. Otherwise, be polite and ignore that fence. (Unless you are a fellow gardener, in which case, feel free, because you totally get the whole "work in progress" thing.))

I am being unreasonably worried about what others think, I know. However, there is a fair bit of self-imposed pressure to have a nice garden when you write a garden blog. I fret that people expect too much, that they expect my poor little garden to look perfect when it is usually anything but. In fact, from time to time when I'm trying to decide on a name for my garden, I go through all sorts of super-poetic variations well above its humble station, but always end up thinking I simply should call it Jardin de los Trabajos en Progreso**.

Part of the problem, too, is that I see what it is supposed to look like. I see it as clearly as I can see that my hands are my mother's, and in the very same way it is glorious. Glorious.

I want desperately for other people to know that the garden is not supposed to look like this--this tired, ragged, beaten up, downtrodden, neglected patch of dusty turmoil. It is supposed to look like the garden in my head. And it will someday. There is just this huge gap between the garden extant and the garden vision.

Anyway, I was thinking about all this as I was rushing to finish have the garden in some sort of respectable, garden-like state for the party next week--some semblance, if you will, to the garden that is in my head--even though I knew, deep down in my bones, it just wasn't going to happen. I mean, I have been trying to put in eighty, count 'em, eighty some-odd retaining wall blocks, each of which weighs twenty-two pounds, in order to create a sparkling desert courtyard terrace, the gravel for which will be deposited on our driveway on Monday.

Dig the trench, wrestle the 70 pound bag of sand to the edge, dump it in, lug a block over to the trench, dump the block in, tamp it down, level the whole shebang, repeat.

This has not gone as quickly as I might have hoped. For one thing, my back does not think it is a good idea to try to lay all eighty blocks on the same day.

Plus, summer school starts next Tuesday. Did I mention that?

Anyway, today I was in a small panic about this--no, not panic, really, more like a mild, cranky tension--when it occurred to me that I was not enjoying working in the garden as much as I usually do, owing to the aforementioned self-imposed pressure of wanting everything to be perfect for this party coming up, when there is no way in hell it is ever going to happen, even if I pull off a miracle. See above, "people finding the messy room, no matter what."

So you know what? I'm not even going to try. Shambles schmambles. Forget the clutter-seeking people! I'm going to take my time in the garden this summer, expectations--mine or anybody's--be damned. I am going to make haste a bit more slowly, savoring each and every moment of the garden construction. That is after all, why I do it--that and because the garden in my head will not let me be. In any case, this garden writer's garden momentarily looks like crap. But it will be beautiful someday. It will look like the garden in my head and it will be glorious.

And don't you dare look over that fence. Or open that door.

*We've already been through three months of construction on another part of the house, and much of the garden was trampled in the process.

**Garden of the Work in Progess


  1. Rose, Lisa and Becky were going to stop by my garden on the way home from Fling and I clearly remember tossing over my shoulder as I left them in the lobby of the hotel this statement: "Lower your expectations before you get to my garden and do not go in the back yard!" I pinky swear that if I ever visit your garden I will not look over that fence and certainly will not open that door! gail

    1. Atta girl. However, I've noticed that fellow gardeners always say, "I love this garden!" no matter the wretched state. They get it. Maybe they even see the Garden Future.

  2. Oh my, I can so relate. We all have to learn to give ourselves a break. I came home tired from work today and immediately started to clean the house for a party tomorrow because I won't have time then. But then I realized folks don't really care. So I relaxed. We need to just enjoy ourselves cause life's too short!

  3. You forgot (??) to add: And if they won't look for that room on their own, I will show it to them (it's where the fat cat hides, and everyone wants, and needs, to see the fat cat). Plus, what Jean said ("folks don't really care").

    1. Step right up! See the amazing fat cat! Behind this door!

      He's lost weight, you know. Now he is merely tall and large. He's not nearly so impressive as he was, so people will probably be disappointed when they see him.

      Is that an ice cream cone in your head shot?

  4. Isn't that the way of it? Our so-called 'natural garden' in the Piedmont is currently way TOO natural, and any hints about visiting are kindly ignored (by me).

    In the middle of your construction, there's no way that anything is supposed to look normal. Enjoy the party! Everyone will have a great time...


  5. Nosey people are a pain. If they have the ill-manners to go where they are not invited, I think they should be shot. You are in Texas...
    OK, I am just kidding. Hate when those folks 'wander around' where they shouldn't. Just plain rude.


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