Bryn, Joe and I are on the road to the Great Smoky Mountains for a spontaneous exploratory visit. We’ll look around, hike and bike, and likely return for a longer stay when we can. So I can’t write a column this week. I offer one from 2012, instead...
Four a.m. My working day began under our king-sized bed. I’d finished making it, then suddenly wondered what lay beneath. I found a two-year-old Popular Mechanics magazine, an ancient golf club (don’t ask) and two dusty antique wall clocks. Those beauties, flat on their backs, hadn’t ticked off time in a decade. Huh. I’d forgotten they existed. It was long past time to renew my vow: sell anything not used for a year. Don’t think twice. Just do it.
I composed an ad right then.
Mid-morning. I set to work weeding under a big shrub in the intense (95 degree) heat, when two overwrought men strode in, talking rapidly. One was disheveled and especially agitated. It wasn’t flowers that dominated the conversation, but bedbugs.
…“and the exterminator’s there, but I won’t let ‘em spray poison on my clothes and pillow. Janet’s furious – wants me to toss everything, but I love that pillow…#%$&! Prolonged heat does kill the buggers, but how’s that possible? Do we seal and cook the house? Bake them in our oven??
“Excuse me,” I interrupted from under the euonymus shrub, hoping they wouldn’t object to my intrusion.
“I couldn’t help but overhear. There’s a solution! Use your big portable oven.” Startled and confused, they peered down at me. I plowed on. “Go home, seal your pillows, blankets and clothes into black contractor bags and toss them into your car- which you must park in full sun. Wait a few hours. Turn the bags once to make sure everything is roasted thoroughly.
I carried on.
“It’s so hot already today, that cars are near to roasting. Every bedbug will be six feet up in record time.”
The victim’s face blossomed into a wide grin. “You know, That. Just. Might. Work...THANKS!!
They hurried out, muttering, “It’s only 10 o‘clock now…”
I sat back on my heels, grinning with satisfaction. I knew a bit about bedbugs from the awful saga of friends in another state. The creatures had invaded their home, probably via a visitor’s suitcase. (There seems to be an epidemic of bedbugs, lately, in this country.) This one interesting sniglet of information had taken root in my brain, and now I’d had the satisfaction of passing it on.
Why had those men come here in the first place? To consult the-oracle-under-the-shrub? I adjusted my mosquito veil and grinned. The world is full of mysteries.
Another pernicious weed yielded to my probing fingers. See? You don’t always ruminate about garden-y things, Dee. Well, yeah, I do. I think a lot about the bugs who live out here. Mostly with angry admiration. Bedbugs fit that thought pattern, don’t they?
Now I tried to think ordinary grass-thoughts. Clever green blades often tiptoe into my flowerbeds and arrange themselves among the innocently accommodating blades of, say, flashy Red Baron grass, and by golly, I’m fooled – for a while. Fortunately, though, ordinary grass still hasn’t figured out how to turn red from the waist up. So I knelt out there in the boiling sun and stared quietly for a while at the invited grass- which starts out green- then did a slow scan. What didn’t look quite right? Aha! There! With a growl of satisfaction I yanked a tall, skinny masquerader out. They’re stealthy weeds, but this gardener defines persistent. I pounced gleefully on others that had quietly hunkered down amid the Cranesbill geraniums.
Cheap thrills like these keep me going.
Still on hands and knees I peeked under lavender and daisies, hunting for signs of horrid Houttuynia. Four years ago this little groundcover’s gorgeous, multicolored leaves had made me swoon. Love-struck, I brought one little honey home and tucked it in. I ignored my own rule- Never Invite Anyone into my Beds Until I’ve Done a Thorough Background Check. I’ll pay forever for allowing passion to overrule common sense.
Darling Houttuynia had lived here for only one summer when, checking under another plant, I saw...
But denial ain’t just a river in Egypt... Nah, I’d thought; she wouldn’t have had time to fool around...She’s so sweet, so little and pink….
Right! Once again, I’d underestimated a plant’s capacity for mastering multiplication while basking in cow poop.
That morning I dug out six fat newborns, cursing. Later I discovered another perky infant forty feet away. Idiot!
Ouch! Somebody had crawled up my pant leg and was dining on my calf. Bugged, I bolted out of the bushes, ran to the garage, hopped out of my cargo pants and shook them, hard. Something little fell out and flew off. A closer inspection revealed a trail of bites. Rats! I’d forgotten to rubberband my cuffs.
Bugs absolutely love me. It’s mystifying. And maddening.
Oh, I was so very hot and bothered! I threw on my pants, dumped my hat on the lawn and snatched up a hose. Full blast, I thought, and bent over to unleash a torrent of rubber-heated water which eventually went cold. I drenched my neck and hairy head, cooling my temper, and me.
Ahhh. Much better.
Sopping wet I stood there, not thinking a single thought, when- Ding! In walked four somberly dressed visitors, probably coming from the funeral home two doors down. There I was, hose-to-nose, soaked soggy and grinning sheepishly, my fly still unzipped. (Oops.) The folks stared, laughed nervously, and edged away.
Bugs, heat, hoses and grass-dumb behavior-
All in all, a garden nerd’s typical day.