According to Sam and Jim Commenting on things that irk us off, make us laugh out loud or just seem too weird too believe According to Sam and Jim: Gardening With Benign Neglect

Friday, March 2, 2012

Gardening With Benign Neglect

There’s a fern in the window in my kitchen. There’s a fern in the window in my kitchen. Come on, sing along, (the tune is the same as There’s A Hole in the Bottom of the Sea)

This fern is my personal plant (#2). I bought it and its predecessor (#1) so I would have something green to care for. I already had Sam to care for, yet my heart somehow felt big enough to embrace one more semi-helpless living thing. I drove to the garden center, adding my truck emissions to the global warming, and bought fern #1. It was a maidenhair (Adiantum raddlanum) and a couple of nursery people told me the maidenhair was a difficult plant to keep alive. “It can be very fussy,” the nursery people told me. “Not many people can keep one longer than six months.”

Of course I thought, “What do they know? I am Jim. My heart is big.”

But sure enough, my first Addy Radd died in about six months. Being a descendant of the Italian passionista that I am, I figured I smothered its delicate roots with too much love water. I resolved to be a little less demonstrative next time and bought maidenhair #2. I tried misting this one more than I watered it because it supposedly liked humidity, but that might have been too much tough love.

Recently, Addy Radd #2 turned all brown. Having grown up in the Pacific Northwest, I know that this is not a good sign for a fern. My fern gave every indication it was dying and couldn’t be saved. I cut it back to its root ball thinking, “Fickle damned plant.” I prepared to dump fern #2 into the garbage can forthwith.

For some reason though, I didn’t immediately consign #2 to the household refuse (“Serve you right if I did,” I thought). Some little voice inside me told me to sprinkle my fern with a little holy (tap) water and say a few words over it, which I did, before I sent it off to plant purgatory. Then, come garbage day, I just didn’t have the heart to toss it. I tried to ignore it until such time as I could bring myself to carry it out to the garage and fling it into the black hole of leftover food, coffee grounds, empty ice cream cartons, torn meat wrappings, Sam’s poop bags, and all the other detritus that makes up the Perkins’ household waste.

So now, about a month later, that little sucker has sprouted a bunch of the beautiful intricate-patterned lacey leaflets that it is known for and is as beautiful as the day I bought it. I’m thinking there must be a lesson in all of this and I think I know what it is - benign neglect.

Sometimes you have to allow living things: like my plant, like Sam, my children and yes, even my wife, space (or whatever) to just do their own thing. A few years ago I thought I saw a baby bird fall out of its nest. Being Mr. Helpful Wrongway Softheart, I put the baby back in his nest. No sooner had I returned to the house than the little tookus plopped out of his nest again. When I tried to put him back in his nest a second time, he scurried off into the bushes peeping like crazy, “Leave me alone. Leave me alone.” Then, I swear I heard his momma scolding me from somewhere nearby too. “Oh, I guess he’s trying to learn to fly,” I thought. Duh.

I guess I have to award myself two bags of poop for wanting to love something too much. Of all people, I should understand the need to be left alone once in awhile to do your own thing. I often squawk loudly when somebody offers me help I don’t want. Sorry Addy Radd. Benign neglect!

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