The monkey grass is turning yellow, the pieris is half dead, the daphne droops. I feel a jolt of anger.
“Why do things look so terrible,” I ask, knowing quite well the answer.
It doesn’t help that Grace does too, and says, “My neglect, I’m sure.” How much effort does it take to turn on the water? A flick of the wrist. That’s it.
“You’re going to lose some plants. Maybe you don’t mind.”
“Oh no,” she says, “I mind. I don’t want to lose any of them.”
I feel my anger sidle off, mantled in perplexity. If you mind, you water. But it’s not that simple. Her grip, mental and physical, gets more tenuous. And, it’s not my garden; I don’t have to look at the yellow monkey grass. I don’t have to take this personally, as if it’s an insult to my Art.
Which I’ve been doing recurrently this week as I restore the garden that had been shrouded in scaffolding since September and bombarded by tar shingles, paint chips, McDonald’s detritus, etc. Yesterday plop in the middle of the sidewalk were 2 “birthday cakes” (my former neighbor Mr. Lu’s euphemism) deposited by 1 (2?) of the 5 Great Danes on the premises. I refused to deal with them, no no no, not me, even though the olfactory receptors took a different stance. Being a liberal, I considered the minority viewpoint, and the justifications thereof. Clean-up might be the compassionate thing to do, considering this occurrence might have been an accident or a contingency of some personal crisis. But the evidence, circumstantial, argued otherwise. Why, in any case, would anyone have so many huge dogs? No, I wouldn’t do it. Of course, just as I was finishing up, when I was tired and distracted… I took it personally.
“Let me check one last time I got everything,” Grace says, looking through the garden for her own dogs’ mini-cakes. “I wouldn’t want you to be surprised.” She has 2 animals, Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, one lovey and one snarly, both now locked in the bedroom yapping nonstop. Mr. Hyde bit me once and would again, if he got free.
“I’m taking the boys out for a walk,” Grace says. “I’ll be back before you’re finished.”
Their absence brings silence. The work is routine, moderately satisfying: restoring order. It’s a little more than that; there is some beauty involved, the “bones” of the garden intact despite the stressed plants, anodyne for another irritation. Grace, inevitably, has overlooked some dogshit. My nose locates it before my eyes do, on the sole of my shoe. I hose it off. At least I didn’t kneel in it.
“Oh you must be exhausted,” Grace says over the yapping when she returns. “There was so much to do. I’m so grateful. You saved me again.”
I don’t know what to make of this. She is probably trying to mollify me because of my earlier disgruntlement. I say something bland. I’m not taking anything personally.