Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Life: A lesson in Futility
A lesson in futility? Well, that came right from the garden this evening. I've been thinking a lot about it lately-about futility, and about the transient nature of all things. Somehow those two words--transient and futility, have become all garbled up in my mind. And I blame it on the garden, mostly.
It started last week, one evening, walking up the lane to watch the sunset. Where the hedgerow dividing two properties comes to an end, the world opened up before me. Off to the west, the vista is wide and far. Off to the south, there is a hilltop where dwells the remaining twisted and gnarled old apple trees my grandmother planted--probably eighty years ago.
It was a large orchard, and by my best estimate of size and tree spacing of the remnants, there must have been nearly fifty fruit trees there. Then, big business, government, specifically West Penn Power, arrived and taught my poor old grandmother the meaning of eminent domain. They cut down half of the trees to make way for progress.
And I thought about how nearly 37 years since her passing, the handful remain, scarred, bent, twisted and diseased. Oh my, such character they have.
My mind wandered as it often does, to how heartbroken grandma would be if she were alive to see what is left of her prized orchard. But, even in their dying gasps of splintered trunks, deformed fruit, and dead branches bleached a ghostly white, the beautiful part of that old orchard is that the robins still build nests in them. And beneath them, each fall, the white tail deer still eat the misshapen fruit that drops to the frosted ground.
When I was going to Master Gardeners' class, one of the teachers said, "I'm often asked by some well-meaning person who has inherited a piece of ground, 'I have this old apple tree. My grandfather planted it seventy-five years ago. Where should I start pruning it?' And I always tell them, 'At the ground'."
I sat in that classroom, knowing that I could easily have been one of those well-meaning people. But I was forced to learn something that day: everything has a time.
In the garden this evening, in solitude, just me, a hoe, and a flat of flowers, I planted, weeded, sprinkled my well-researched natural pesticide, and I sweated.
I griped a little, I'm sure. Something to the effect, "Damn, it's hot this early in the season. And those weeds! Will they never stop?"
And the answer was as plain as the nose on my face. Nope. The weeds will never stop. And wild fruit brambles that ceaselessly encroach upon a little corner of dirt we endeavor to control will never stop. And the tall trees will continue to grow and increase the shade where I yearn to grow sun-loving flowers and vegetables.
My husband often reminds me, when I complain about the vegetables and flowers getting chewed off by the wildlife, about the trees shading the small garden, about drought, about rain, "It's nature, Reesie."
And he patiently runs a weed-eater several times each season. And once each spring, he runs the old rototiller, staking claim once again to what little piece of earth we are going to command, to control, to force to our will.
A lesson in futility? Yes. And a fine one, indeed.
And we are learning to accept it. It's all temporary. Someday, our little secret garden beyond the corner left intentionally wild, will be much like grandma's orchard. A last gasp...and gone...save only for in the memories of the living.