"It's a jungle out there; disorder and confusion everywhere..." ---Randy NewmanThe weather has been a study in polarities -- flooding one week followed by drought the trailing two; scorching heat for days on end followed by sweater-worthy evenings. In the garden we delayed reworking two beds because of muddy conditions, and then overnight it turned to concrete with all the heat. Even the power harrow was panting from exertion. And while our bodies shift into slow motion from the peaking mercury, the weeds and garden grasses have been very happy. Couple that with a few days out of town, several days of relational distractions around the death of a dear friend, and a day or two of the "blahs", the overgrowth has been very happy, indeed. We hoe for awhile; we hand pull for awhile; we lean on the hoe for awhile and then work it a little more. And if the mosquitoes don't kill us, the ticks surely will.
Meanwhile, the good stuff has been growing, too. The tomato plants are inching toward the height of an average middle schooler. The squashes have overtaken any and every available space, and the okra is patiently, steadily stretching upward. The peppers seem quite content as well, although I have yet to see any blossoms portending the spiciness in our future. It's increasingly difficult to differentiate the beds. It all presents as a cacophony of viney green.
"It's a jungle out there; disorder and confusion everywhere."
At least by appearance; on the surface. The truth, closer to the ground, is a more complicated story. Everything was planted in rows, in 30" raised beds. The spacing between plants was precise. The distance between each row on the beds was intentional. True, as the stems grew and the leaves spread the inevitable sprawl of vitality ensued. That's not a sign of chaos; it's a sign of life. Some things grow up; others grow out; still others do a little of both. Some fruit hangs down like droplets beneath high leaves; others sprawl on the ground. It is the glory of diversity and its very manifestation. What was precise in its nascence has become precocious in its growth.
You may call it a mess; I rather call it a vegetative frolic. Everything has a personality, and I rather encourage its expression. It will make it a little challenging to harvest the squash, but that will invite some kind of a dance of my own, stepping lightly over stalk and leaf to tiny patch of clearing.
It is, in other words, less than it looks like -- and more.
I consider that horticultural example as I read, with deepening concern, the paper each morning and follow the updates throughout the day. It IS a jungle out there. As the Randy Newman song goes on to note,
"People think I'm crazy, 'cause I worry all the time.It feels increasingly like chaos -- social, moral, political and intellectual anarchy. We are constantly at each others throat, and we aren't much kinder to ourselves. We are committing murder and suicide in what feels like record numbers. Increasingly, those who manage to stay alive lubricate the effort with more and more antidepressants.
If you paid attention, you'd be worried too."
It could be, however, that this snapshot is largely the view from the garden's edge -- from Facebook chatter and special-interest mailings and outlets for the 24-hour news cycle that constantly need high-octane stories to churn and burn what would otherwise be benign white noise. It could be that it is not a jungle out there at all; that closer to the ground an ordered and civilized pattern is more apparent. Maybe all this sprawl of leaf and limb, this splash of blossom and bud,is, as it is in the garden, merely the evidence of vigor and reach.
I'm not astute enough to say. I only know it's likely to be more complicated -- more interesting and maybe even more fruitful -- than we are prone to think.
I suppose we'll see. In the meantime, I'm going to go dance among the vines and check for squash.