I encountered hope tonight. In the dusky evening as I peered into my much cluttered garden shed looking for a rake, I stumbled over it—hope—not the rake. Not surprisingly so. To be honest, it happens every fall. But after such a tragic summer, I thought it might be different. Yes, I said tragic. Not a perennial was purchased. Nary a well-endowed sedum was divided. Melons shriveled on the vine. Japanese beetles skeletonized my porcelain berry vine. And I skulked in the house breathing in my stagnant air-conditioned air. It was not a summer for gardeners. Even this fall I’ve turned a cold shoulder to my yard. Purple cone flowers stand like charred aliens taunting me with their gazillions of seeds they will drop with the first mighty wind. Who cares—go ahead! Mats of iris tubers, their brown and sickly leaves pointing shriveled fingers to the sky, demand to be dug, divided, and put to bed in some soft, tilled earth. But I shove my hands deeper into my pockets, kick a rock out of the grass, and return to my stagnant furnace-heated air inside. I’m jaded.
But tonight, in search of a rake for my husband, I ventured into my shed. Remnants of the summer’s disappointments blocked the door—watering cans, garden stakes, grass seed, hoes and shovels. I tentatively picked through it hoping not to disturb spiders or mice. A dozen gangly tomato stakes battled me until I soundly banished them to a corner. Bending to gather and stack a train-wreck of plastic plant containers, I encountered hope peering back at me. Each of these containers had a plant tag still attached—Lady’s Mantle, Pink Wave Petunia, Munsted Lavendar , Rocket Snapdragon, Purple Penstemon. Ah, yes, such sweet friends in those soft, gentle days of early summer. Maybe next spring I’ll finish edging the bed with Lady’s Mantle. Hope. I reach to retrieve a cobwebby humming bird feeder and lift it to hang on a nail. Poor things. Maybe the sweet, red bee balm—a hummer’s favorite–will fare better next summer. Hope. I hang shovels, corral plant markers, stand watering cans in a tin-soldier row. Certainly next spring we’ll have apple blossoms, and the beetles won’t be so bad. Hope.
Albert Einstein once said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” And maybe that’s a little bit the way gardening can be. I drive myself crazy every year coddling my cantaloupe, propping up my snap peas, and seeking revenge on horn worms. But I have hope.