Welcome to my world and beyond...

A collection of snippets of the books I write and, occasionally, my life and the things that inspire my writing...

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.


  1. This was beautiful.

    I'm a big fan of leaving things to grow wild - I hate it when the park outside my flat is mowed.

    I wouldn't struggle against nature's encroachment myself for that reason, and also because I think I lean towards the path of least resistance, not fighting the inevitable (maybe in a Daoist kind of way), but if you get enjoyment from the fight I can see why you do it.

    And your garden looks nice. Thanks for the post.

    1. Thanks, Ash! '

      I try to incorporate a natural approach to gardening and lnadscaping as much as I can. It makes sense. If I grow natives, or just let the residents thrive, nature will do 99% of the work for me.

      I am a very tough-love gardener. If I like a plant, I'll give it a try, coming as close to a recommended environment as possible. One season. I see how it did. If it is thriving, great. If it's faltering, I will move it for the next season. I will do that till it finds a place it likes, or until it dies. I don't as a rule, coddle plants.

      I do have a couple "pet plants" that I can't live without though. Guilty pleasures. :-)

  2. Hi Teresa,
    I love this part "And the answer was as plain as the nose on my face", it made me smile.
    Nature has a strange impact on all of us, sometimes it cheers us up, sometimes it makes us very melancholic...I personally, prefer the latter :)


    1. Thanks, Petro :-) Nice to "see" you.

      Nature makes me pensive :-) Usually somewhere between cheered, and melancholic :-) A perfect source of inspiration. :-)

      A big hug right back to you :-)

  3. This really is on your mind a lot, isn't it? There is no solace, nothing we could say or do to distract us from these grand insights in what we are, how everything is, fleeting. Even the gardens live and die in cycles. I like to think that a tree becomes a different one each year, once it changes its leaves. Same as with us. People spring where others wither, but we as a species (our collective mind) continue to exist.

    I'd like to quote these last words from one of my hubby's blog posts, because your thoughts reminded me of something he wrote:

    "Most depressing is that I'm ok with the answers I've found. And puzzles that still loom, start to become something for others to solve. It sounds like wisdom, and it probably is. But wisdom isn't fun at all. In fact it's the opposite of excitement.

    I'm ok being part of a grand and yet pointless universe. I'm fine being completely unimportant and unremarkable. Mostly because everything else is so too. The sense of importance can only be invoked by ignorance. And ignorance is something you can only lose, not obtain."

    1. Dana, such profundity from one so young. I often think that, when I read your words. I love this: "People spring where others wither, but we as a species (our collective mind) continue to exist."

      I'm going to read David's post sometime this weekend--the one from which the quote was taken--if I can find it :-) It (to me) speaks of such a level of acceptance that it borders surrender--and not in a bad way. :-)

      "And ignorance is something you can only lose, not obtain." There, you did it again. :-)!

  4. This made me smile and sigh! Leaving the Rosehill orchard to disappear again under brambles, watching years of work disappear so quickly! But I think it is refreshing and liberating to accept being a little spark in the eternal- something in my mind is fixed at being about 5 years old, so my ignorance remains blissful, and if all else fails, we still have a lot of cider to regress with. I'll raise a glass for gardens everywhere :-)

    1. There really is something about an old orchard. There is a tipping point, beyond which what remains is sad. Grandma's have moved well past that for the most part. I hope that the new place feels right to you, feels comfortable, and that you find fertile ground for your creative roots to run deep and wide. :-) I will raise a glass to Rosehill--and all the memories you have of it. :-)

  5. I blame it on the garden! ha! There is a certain magic in nature, for it reminds us constantly of our place, no?

    I like to walk in the trees before I write a romance scene. Something about them makes me bring my characters down to earth before they get muddy. hee hee

    I just loved this post. Made me smile, laugh out loud and it brought me to tears. All within moments.

  6. Thank you Tanya. :-) I agree. There is a magic in nature--can't be duplicated or imitated...

    Trees...so inspiring. Joyce Kilmer got that about them :-)

    Thank you for visiting and I hope your father's day went well.

  7. And if I didn't know it before, having read this post you're a true wordsmith Teresa, I could sooo picture that old orchard, see my grandmother laboring over her trees, know how sad she'd be to see the condition they're now in and know that all good things eventually come to an end. I love nature. I live in Hawaii, which is beautiful don't get me wrong... but I've always been a forest girl, not a tropics girl. I love evergreens and maples, oaks, and elms... that post made me smile, made me think about my grandparents 100 acre farm in rural MO and remember.

    Thanks :)

  8. I am so humbled, Linda...and glad that I could help to transport you to your grandparents' farm in MO. It's a way of life whose funeral dirge is already playing.

    Hawaii sounds incredible...yet, foreign to us forest girls. I understand what you mean. :-)

    Thank you for visiting and for your kind words :-)