Our humble garden-
Fencing breached by wild piggies.
Salad dreams trampled.
Friday night, noises outside interrupted my blog reading. I’m pretty sure my heart missed several beats as I sat paralyzed with fear. It was late at night and everyone else was in bed, but I finally got the nerve to peek out the kitchen window to see who was on our porch.
I stared, stunned, as I counted two full-grown javelina and a baby javelina inside the fencing around our small garden in front of our patio. I woke my husband up to tell him our meager garden was going to be even paltrier by the time they finished grazing.
We stood in front of the kitchen window contemplating what to do. My husband tried cursing at them, but that wasn’t entirely effective. The two large javelina vacated the garden, leaving the baby running to and fro trying to find a way out. (I had to laugh at the “save yourself” mentality of these creatures!)
Horrified, I watched the poor thing try shoving its nose through the fencing, chewing the wire, and trampling the garden in a frantic search for an exit. I wanted to help, but I could hear the nearby snorts of the adults that didn’t run very far away. Going outside wasn’t an option.
Finally, the baby squeezed under the fencing and joined the other trespassers. One of the larger ones approached the window and gave a long look that seemed to say, “we’ll be back.” (Only without the Arnold Schwarzenegger accent.)
Since we moved here seventeen months ago, we’ve learned that the animals really don’t care that we bought the land. We’ve tried to claim some space for our own, but so far, we’ve been outmatched (I hesitate to write “outsmarted”…. It’s a huge hit to my ego to admit that elk and javelina are smarter than us.)
Yet the facts- our lousy 0 and 3 track record – are impossible to ignore.
For August, Emilio Pasquale provided the following photo that I used as inspiration for a story. If you haven’t already, you should check out his blog - he knows how to edit photos (I, on the other hand, do not!) The story begins after the photo…
Ramona Schmidt dragged her index finger through the inches-thick layer of snow on the truck’s hood. Like her heart, the snow had frozen, thawed, and been refrozen so many times. Like her soul, that rusty truck held enough memories to haunt several lifetimes.
“Mama, won’t you come inside?”
Ramona didn’t respond.
“She’s been standing out there for over an hour,” Paula said to her husband.
“Maybe she just needs some time.”
“She’ll freeze to death. It must be twenty degrees out there.”
“She’s wearing a coat.”
Paula scowled. “There’s no talking to her.”
Ramona frowned. Since her husband, Davy, had turned up missing sometime after the leaves colored and before the naked trees stood stark on the horizon, her daughter and son-in-law came to live with her. Whispers of dementia carried through thin walls; slow words delivered by raised voices. The way they talked about her like she wasn’t there infuriated her. She slipped a cigarette from the pack stowed in her right coat pocket. With her left hand she clicked the lighter and brought the flame to the tip of the cigarette pressed between her lips, taking in a long drag as the tobacco smoldered.
“Mama, I think you should come inside.” Paula draped an arm over her mom’s bony shoulders. She glanced at her husband- he nodded and headed toward the house.
Exhaled smoke escaped in tendrils. “I’m fine here.” Ramona fought the urge to shrug off her daughter’s condescending touch.
“The man is coming to look at the truck in about an hour.”
Ramona brushed her fingers along the exposed rust. That truck was already several years old when Davy brought it home. She’d never forget how he showed up that evening and said he wanted to take a mining job in Idaho. She didn’t understand why he couldn’t just mine copper in Arizona.
“If you’ve changed your mind about selling it, I can let him know.”
Ramona pursed her lips. “Winds change, minds don’t.” Eyes closed, she lifted her chin. As if on cue, another gust whipped a layer of fallen snow into the air. Her wrinkled cheeks, a topographical map of her years, stung from the latest assault. Her skin had grown dry from the hours spent outdoors at the mercy of an unforgiving winter. “My heart has gone dry from years of neglect.” She flicked her spent cigarette filter and ground it into the frozen hay with the toe of her fur-lined leather slipper.
“What?” Her daughter leaned closer. “What do you mean?”
“Thy will be done,” Ramona said with a shrug. She didn’t realize her ideas had translated to spoken words. She stayed immersed in the space between, where memories and new thoughts commingled in her brain. More and more, it became difficult to differentiate between real and manufactured history. The permeable line separating thoughts and words diminished with each passing day. She giggled. “Incontinence of the mind.”
Wild vines trailing long-
Thriving unfenced, untended.
Animals don’t feast?
Several weeks ago, during a walk around our neighborhood, we spotted a cluster of strange vines growing on an empty lot. Upon closer inspection, we identified it as watermelon.
Of course, I had to take pictures because our watermelons never made it this far. We had two garden areas last year, both fenced in. One garden was ravaged early on by rabbits, who squeezed under the fencing. They were greedy – they ate the plant sprouts before fruit could begin to develop.
Our second garden survived most of the summer. While neighbors lamented the destruction of their plants by various wildlife, I declared that our garden thrived. Neighbors commented on our beautiful zucchini and tomato plants.
And then the elk came. They ransacked the garden and what was left died within a couple weeks.
This is why the wild watermelons are so perplexing. It made me wonder if the animals around here prefer a challenge. You know, bragging rights amongst their kin when they outsmarted the ridiculous attempts to deter them. Or, perhaps they have become so accustomed to the good stuff being locked up (like expensive wine) that they don’t bother to look outside the fencing.
Then another thought occurred to me: I might be over-thinking it. Maybe the wild watermelon is just one of those unexpected things in life to make us take a pause. Perhaps it’s not meant to be understood- just simply enjoyed.
After watching the news this weekend, I’m all for simple enjoyment. I’m trying to shake a hopeless feeling… the restlessness I feel whenever I’m saddled with the weight of current events. Watermelons flourishing when all logic says they shouldn’t distracts me from the beheadings, bombings, civil unrest and earthquakes.
To me, these watermelons are more than just plants. They are hope.
And I hope your Monday brings you joy!
P.S. If you came here looking for fiction, I hope you’ll check back later this week – I’ll be posting a story for another of Emilio Pasquale’s photos. This is the third in an unofficial monthly challenge :)
Bernadette Thibodaux stood in front of the house she’d just purchased, key folded in her palm. “This is it,” she exhaled. She turned to her best friend, Chris, to read his reaction.
“Well. It’s a nice place.”
“Who said anything about a ‘but’?”
“Come on, after twenty-two years, I can tell.” She didn’t have to mention their years as high school sweethearts and their failed marriage; that always lingered in the back of her mind.
He shrugged. “Birdie, don’t you think four acres might be a bit much for you to maintain?”
Birdie. No one else could get away with calling her that. “I just bought my first place. Don’t ruin it for me.” She grabbed his elbow. “Let me show you the house!”
He nearly knocked her over when she came to an abrupt stop at the wrap-around porch. While she fumbled with the key in the lock, he shook the railing. “Sturdy support,” he mumbled. “A porch swing would be nice over there.” He pointed to the right.
She glanced over her shoulder. “That’s exactly what I thought.” She pushed on the door but it didn’t budge. She thrust her hip against the door twice and it popped loose with a creak. When she entered the foyer a new wave of excitement rippled through her.
Chris opened and closed the door several times and rubbed his fingers along the door jam. “I think a little sanding right here and a re-paint and it’ll be good as new.”
Thunder rumbled overhead, shaking the windows. Intermittent rain drops pelted the glass.
He peered at the track of the large window to the left of the entryway. “Might need some tightening.”
She threw a playful punch at his shoulder. “Critical much? You talk like the house is falling apart.”
“I just think the place on Church Street would’ve been better for you.”
“It was sweet of you to look at it for me, but it was a condo. No privacy at all.”
“But it was in town.”
“This is only twenty minutes away.”
He opened his mouth, but then closed it again. “May we continue the tour?”
She nodded. “Follow me, then.” She led him into the kitchen. She expected him to comment on the worn finish of the cabinet doors or the discolored laminate counter tops, but he said nothing. When he saw the guest bathroom, he let the missing drain stopper go without comment. The smallish guest bedrooms drew not even a murmur of criticism.
“So what do you think?” Bernadette asked when they circled back to the front door.
“It’s perfect for you, Birdie.”
Something in the smile he gave her, or the wistful tone of his voice, made her cheeks color. “You know I want your honest opinion.”
I learned so much this week, I decided to break it up into two posts. If you missed the first one, and you’re curious about what else I learned, click here to read it.
Teaching an almost 12-year-old to be grateful rather than entitled is an exercise in futility…. but I’m stubborn enough to keep at it
I overheard my older son counting his dollars before the birthday cards. (If we were zoned for chicken coops, perhaps he’d have counted chickens, too.) I explained that birthday gifts were…well, gifts and shouldn’t be expected. Money is tight for several family members so I reminded him he needs to be grate regardless of the money he receives. When I told him I’d invited my best friend to his birthday gathering, he was a little too excited… when I informed him I told her not to bring a gift, the disappointment was apparent.
I. Won’t. Give. Up.
I stumbled across the line between atrocious and appalling, and I don’t ever, ever want to go there again
My younger son’s table manners are atrocious. Despite my constant
nagging reminding, he’s just a little piglet. He drops crumbs everywhere. He wipes his hands on his shirt (leaving a clean napkin ready to be looked at during our next meal.) He scatters his empty wrappers on the table – it was bad enough, I threatened to make him eat his Pop-Tart wrapper if he left it on the table again.
Then, on Saturday night, I saw his friend eat fettuccine alfredo. Oh my. It was appalling. I lost my appetite a little bit. I’m not sure if he used a fork or not, but he had sauce all over his chin. Finally my younger son said, “Dude, you need to wipe your chin. Do you need another napkin?”
The irony made me laugh. So much so that I had to excuse myself from the table to pull myself together.
Boys act brave, until coyotes howl
Each of my kids had a friend spend the night on Saturday night. I put them all to bed in our pop-up camping trailer. Around 11 pm, I heard coyotes howling. I remembered I didn’t send a phone handset out with them, so I decided to leave it with them, if they were still awake. (ha- if they were still awake…. what was I thinking?)
As I neared the trailer, I heard voices, so I stopped and listened.
Friend #1 – “There’s safety in numbers. We should stick together.”
Friend #2 – “What if they try to get inside?”
My older son – “The coyotes would have to be like six feet tall to get in here.”
I started laughing, giving my presence away, so I continued to the trailer. The only child asleep was my younger son. The other three were huddled together in one bed and boy did their imaginations freak them out! They were grateful for the phone and I assured them they were safe.
As I walked back to the house, my evil streak surfaced in the form of a temptation to scream in terror.
The thought of the four boys squeezed into MY queen-sized bed nixed the impulse real quick!
Kids are to egos what needles are to balloons (confidence must come from within)
I got a haircut and, for the first time in months, I liked the result. It’s longer in the front and cut short around the neckline in the back. As I type this, I realize it does sound like an odd haircut but it works for me- I feel like I have some hair, but it doesn’t get all bulky and hot around my neck (this is huge in Arizona; especially in the summer!)
Older son: “You got a haircut.” (With a look on his face like he caught a whiff of rotting food.)
Me: “Yes, and I love it!”
Older son: “Okay… but did you see the back?”
I laughed. Good thing I didn’t come home looking for approval from a critical almost-twelve-year-old. Come to think of it, I don’t even know what my husband thinks of it…. I never ask :)
And there it is; all the things that life has taught me over the last week. I’m sure there’s more, but sometimes this student’s mind wanders.
Have a beautiful Monday!
I had fun with my first post of wisdom gained that I did a few weeks ago. I jotted down notes throughout the week so I could share more
useless realizations things I’ve learned. Here goes:
Not all kids think I’m lame- just the ones I gave birth to
My kids’ friends happened to come over when the kids weren’t home. (They had gone on a bike ride with a neighbor.) Since I expected them home soon, I let them hang around. After replacing a Band-Aid that had fallen off, one of the boys commented that I was “like the nicest mom ever.” Oh, but I didn’t let it go to my head. See the next bit of wisdom.
Don’t fall for flattery from 11-year-olds (they will eat you out of house and home)
Woody Woodpecker announced a text message on my phone. When one of the kids identified the voice, I expressed my surprise because it was “an old cartoon, from my generation.” He said his mom watched it and she was thirty. I laughed and said, “oh, I’m much older than that.” After revealing my age (41) they proceeded to feign shock and assured me I didn’t look that old. (Seriously, I didn’t buy that load of flattery, but it was a good effort.)
After the kids had played outside for several hours, I had expected them to go home for lunch. They didn’t, so I fed them. One of them ate two Velveeta mac and cheese packs and then asked if he could take some home. I said no because they were for the kids’ lunches.
I have a feeling we’ll have visitors for lunch again soon. Just a hunch.
Sometimes bad housekeeping is a good thing
As we ate dinner on the patio one evening, I kept my eye on a wasp hovering near by. (This means I had my butt barely balanced on the chair so I could dash into the house.) It went into a vent cover that was near my husband. I stared for several minutes but it didn’t come out. “Oh, there better not be a nest in there!” I said in a near-panic. When I crept over to the vent and peeked in, I saw the wasp tangled in a web.
Spider webs aren’t just for Halloween…. I’m happy to have another excuse for leaving them up year-round!
The AZ Motor Vehicle Division operates by computer, not reason
Ah, a government agency. What could possibly go wrong there, right? Well, I figured after over a year of living in our new location, I’d get a new driver’s license with the correct address. When my online attempt failed, I called the MVD. I explained that the message said I couldn’t get a duplicate license because my photo needed updated in 2011. I told them how I had done it a couple months prior to the due date after receiving the notice in the mail. Apparently, they put in the computer that it was a duplicate with no indication of a photo being taken.
According to the MVD, my driver’s license photo is from 1998. If that were the case, I could see my photo being used in an upcoming anti-drug use campaign – as a shocking “after” photo of a 25-year-old who made bad choices.
I knew that hour at the MVD office was one I’d never get back, but I had no idea that, years later, I’d discover it was like it never happened.
Life really stepped up its game in educating me, so tomorrow, I will post a follow up with more things I learned. What have YOU learned this week? I’d love to read your observations (funny, frustrating, or anything in between.)
Amy rolled onto her side, the foam inside her vinyl-covered bean bag chair squeaking as she moved. She flipped another page in her book, anxious to find out if the rumor of Tiffany cheating on Brad was true.
“You should be outside, it’s a beautiful day.”
Amy glanced at her mom standing in her doorway. “No thanks. This is a really good book.”
“Go play with your friends. You sit around the house too much.”
“I don’t want to.” I don’t have friends, and twelve-year-olds don’t play, she wanted to say.
“You’re not going to spend the whole summer inside.” She motioned toward the front door. “Go on.”
Amy contemplated arguing, but could see by her mom’s folded arms that it was no use. “Fine. I’ll get my bike.”
With a satisfied nod, her mom turned and retreated toward the kitchen.
As soon as her mom’s footsteps faded, she tucked the book into the front of her khaki shorts and pulled her baggy t-shirt over her hips. “Be back in a while,” she called as she slipped out the front door. She rolled her bike out of the side gate and thought a little prayer that she would make it to the park without anyone seeing her. Several streets away, she spotted four blonde heads and knew her luck had run out.