Thursday, July 11, 2013

Surrender...Not an Option

I have a little obsession with all things Everest.  I read climber biographies, watch documentaries, and peruse climbing websites.  The gutsy insanity and perseverance required to summit Everest – even to attempt it – defies explanation.  Long after their fingers and toes are blackened with frostbite, climbers trudge onward into thinner air, further from warmth and medical attention.  They are fanatically dedicated to accomplishing their goal.  

I am not one of those people.  I succumb to hypothermia in air-conditioned restaurants.  I’ve chickened out on several cross-country skiing trips.  Cross-country is, as you know, horizontal skiing.  I haven’t got a dare-devilish bone in my body.  I’m like the little pillbugs we dig up in the garden.  Braver insects try to escape, or bite, or poop, but the pillbug curls up in a ball and hopes for the best.  We just don’t deal well with obstacles or conflict. 

Beans under attack
And weeds pose a constant conflict.  Up until last week, this little pillbug was kicking some weed butt.  Then the rain came, and I didn’t work in my garden for a few days.  By the time I returned, the hostile takeover was in full swing.  The weeds had the upper hand, snaking through the strawberries and clutching at the cabbage. 

I’ve seen similar ambushes played out a hundred times in movies.  Imagine with me, if you will, a small band of patriots traveling across a plain.   Suddenly they are  surrounded by squadrons and legions and hordes of the enemy.   Depending on the genre, it could be war-painted Comanches hoisting tomahawks, Ninja warriors hurling shooting stars, robotic droids sporting laser cannons, or prickly thistles going to seed.  Okay, the last one hasn’t hit the big screen yet, but every other genre of war movie features this plotline. 

This is what horticultural war looks like at my house.  The weeds bring the big guns.  Their seedheads are loaded with multiple rounds.  Their root systems are primed for survival behind enemy lines.  They go about their work twenty-four hours a day, regardless of weather.  And they’re not alone.  Insects come from miles around to feast on my smorgasbord.  My defensive maneuvers are limited to my tools (good), range of motion (diminishing) and my free time.  Between my gig as a kiddy chauffeur, sous chef, and laundress, that doesn’t amount to much.  Three kids make summertime a Honda-driving, sandwich-stacking, towel-washing extravaganza. 

Reinforcements have arrived
In years past, my vegetables disappeared behind a grassy curtain by the Fourth of July.   I still managed to pluck produce from their grasp, but that kind of harvesting is best done with combat boots and a machete.   But this year, I want to pick tomatoes in my flip-flops.  I want to see zucchini from a distance.  And Hollywood makes me believe this is possible.

In the movies, the underdogs always emerge from the carnage with
just a few well-placed, appearance-enhancing scars.  They manage to make nearly-dying look good.  I’ve never had a near death experience in the garden, but its not uncommon for me to come out looking like I was buried alive in there.  Soil is just attracted to me.  Magnetically, maybe, I don’t know.  It’s a gift.

It may be staged, but the sermon preached from the pits of the cinematic battlefield is a valuable one: never surrender.  How will I ever know the sweet savor of victory until I’ve stood my ground and pushed against the enemy?  It might not be Mt. Everest, but its challenge enough for me.  And so I plunge in and start pulling purslane, dandelions and grass.  In the words of historic non-pillbug John Paul Jones, “I have not yet begun to fight!”

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