My spiritual mettle has been tested recently.
I told this to my girlfriend Toni and she said, “Have you been watching Glenn Beck again?” Well, he’s hard to avoid, but that wasn’t it.
“Was it that email you sent me about the Lutherans?” Yeahhhh, that sad news story that the Lutherans had gone into schism over the issue of ordaining gay priests. I was very bummed to hear it, I told her, but that wasn’t it either.
What it was was going out to check out the broccoli, expecting to see this…
You know. A nice happy, healthy broccoli plant … And instead finding this…
Those would be … broccoli nubs.
On the other side, more devastation. My beautiful “red swan” beans (“stabilized cross between a purple snap bean and a pinto,” according to the seed catalog)–decimated!
Looks pretty good, huh? That’s because you’re looking at the pigeon peas on the left! The red swan beans are on the right, and they were taller and lusher than the pigeon peas!
Hey, I’m calm now. I know it was partly my fault. I knew that groundhog was lurking in the vicinity because he’d show up about once every six weeks or so to snack on the potted nasturtiums in the front yard. But I the nasturtiums aren’t special–they’re hanging out amid a riot of “black and blue” sage, caladiums, funky begonias, petunias, tropical kales. And more to the point, I’m not not planning on eating them. I barely noticed the groundhog’s depredations.
But the red swans are different …. special … I chose them special from the Seed Savers catalog. I’ve been thinking about them, dreaming about them, nagging Marc to move his darned nursery stock for months so I could grow them … So for just a moment, a little switch in my head flipped and I was imagining … oh, all kinds of mayhem. Groundhog stew… No, not violent enough. Groundhog on a spit! No, no–even better–groundhog livers on a spit!
Or as Baby said when I started fulminating, “Ground groundhog.”
I looked up at him–and looked up some more because I’d misjudged where his eyes were the first time. (Baby’s pretty tall.) He looked down and shrugged. “I’m just saying.”
“Well, I’ll tell you one thing.” That was David talking, one of the guys on Baby’s crew. I looked over at him and he started laughing. “He sure knew what he wanted.”
I looked around… and yeah, David was right. Homeboy had not touched the English peas or snap peas. He was not interested at all in the tomatoes or okra. And Baby’s viburnums and hydrangeas and vitex and butterfly bushes and caryopteris had been completely ignored for months.
The impulse to murder something flared hot a moment longer. Then it sputtered and I laughed, too. The red swan beans that I’d been dreaming of for so many months had just gotten two thumbs up from a highly selective palate. Guess they were “all that” after all.
So the fellas and I proceeded to the job that had brought us out into the garden in the first place. Putting up a “pea trellis” for the peas to climb on. It was a companionable little job that took the three of us maybe 15 minutes to complete. The fellas briefly debated fencing the whole garden–but I knew they were actually headed to build a stone staircase for one of Baby’s clients. And Baby knew that a critter-proof fence actually had rather precise specifications–which they did not have time to fulfill…
And besides, there was a less drastic measure that I had not yet tried. Epsom salts. I’d read somewhere in one of my Rodale “garden secrets” books that groundhogs didn’t like them. (Reading a little further, I’d learned they are high in magnesium and sulfur, so maybe the smell of the sulfur is what repels them.)
But as we chatted and puttered among the peas, I found my thoughts straying–a bit shamefacedly–to my brief murderous rage. And then to something I’d read in another context–Deepak Chopra talking about our poisoned political discourse and the stalled Mideast peace process.
Stay with me now… He’d said something I found so provocative–that everyone is entrapped in their own level of consciousness. “How could it be different?” he’d written. “You can’t look beyond your own mind, and for all of us, the most powerful beliefs that guide us are hidden…”
Recalling those words, I had a sudden glimpse of friend groundhog. Unburdened by the whole frontal cortex issue. His whole consciousness shaped by the need to glean something edible amid the strips of alternating green and asphalt that make up the modern city.
Life as an urban groundhog.
I thought about it. Really considered the question. In a world of wiregrass and privet, who wouldn’t want … red swan beans and broccoli?
So later that day, I purchased the Epsom salts… So far, they’ve worked… But I’m thinking I need to leave an offering for friend groundhog… I’m just saying.