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Who Has Time for Schmaltz?

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I am not one for sentimental, sugar-laced prose. While I take much delight in the simpler pleasures of life, the moment I start to write about them – to take up pen and scratch out a few poetic words – an overwhelming desire to lodge my tongue deeply within my cheek stifles all attempts at seriousness; and before I know it, I am snickering where I should be simpering.

This can be a bit of a handicap when writing if the subject is one’s love affair with the garden.  Any romance-novel junkie will tell you that sensitivity sells, and I do not deny that there is a distinct lack of the mushy stuff going on in this particular affaire de couer. However, if I might be allowed a moment to defend myself against any accusation of callous cynicism, I will only say that I have the best of intentions – it’s just that I am inevitably scuppered by the comedy that is life.

One can either smile wryly and run to the laptop, or smile wanly and run to the therapist, and frankly, the laptop is much cheaper and I don’t need an appointment.

Yesterday, a weeding friend found the upturned head of Nigella damascena pushing its way past thickets of wild violet which had been making short work of a bare spot in the border. This unexpected visitor elicited great cries of delight from the weeder’s chief supervisor, sitting, cane in hand, on the front porch. To many gardeners, N. damascena is a self-seeder of the basest order, an opportunistic pest to be rarified only for its potential as a lovely dried seedhead. I have never felt this way, but then I have never been granted the opportunity to grow it, in spite of liberally coating the ground with seed each and every September.

So this lone flower was much more than just a new face in town. In effect, it represented freedom from seed packet purgatory. For when a self-seeding annual finally deigns to grow in my garden, it instinctively knows the best place and time to throw its own seed without any help from me – and always with fabulous results.

With great tenderness, I asked my friend to carefully clear the weeds around my pretty little guest, allowing a bit more sun to fall upon her happy face and ensure a small stand of Nigella for next year’s garden. With the exception of seeing the Morello Cherry Lupine throwing up a late, second spike of color, it was certainly the highlight of the afternoon.

That was yesterday. This morning, my daughter, fresh from a romp through the garden, brought me a bouquet and a kiss on the cheek. And there, surrounded by Echinacea, Leucanthemum, Phlox and Agastache, a familiar face greeted me and brought tears to my eyes. “That’s a special one,” said my ten-year old, eyes bright, “there’s only one of those.”

Nigella damascens, R.I.P.

I took the rag-tag bouquet from her hands and tried to forget about the many times I have lectured little ears on the felony offence of taking the last of anything, be it exotic flora or a chocolate chip cookie; after all, her intentions were of the very best kind. So instead I smiled (wryly), thanked my daughter for her thoughtfulness, put the flowers in some water and reached for the laptop, no appointment necessary.

And I will not spend a single minute waxing poetic over my childlike delight, or indulge myself whatsoever in several sentences oozing heartbreak. There is no place for mawkishness in this comedy of errors. The situation calls for laughter of the purest kind.

So call me a crusty old cynic, but at the end of the day, a sense of humor gives me the strength to keep gardening. Without this strategic tool one can only expect pain and misery in a world where Murphy wins every time.

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