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  • Writer's pictureJohn R

Last Tangle in Paradise

The side garden is one of my favorite places on our property. It’s a tangled, overgrown confusion of intertwining blanches, shaggy foliage and viny things, all growing helter-skelter into a sort of singular impenetrable botanical mass. It could use some management from the property owner, for sure. Studious pruning, for example, would be extremely beneficial for both plant health and aesthetics.


The side garden has my hideaway spot. It’s a little dome-shaped nook mantled over with a matrix of twigs and leaves. I discovered it one day when searching for a lost pair of pruning shears (talk about ironic). Crawling on my hands and knees through the brush like a purposeful opossum, hoping that I might be spared another trip to Ace Hardware to buy yet another pair of pruning shears that I know are Out Here Somewhere—a pair that I wielded a year ago with excellent intentions before my resolve was interrupted by a phone call and then a box of honey grahams and then a nap.

I was shunted this way and that by the caprices of the underbrush until I came upon a small hollow place within the snarl of growing things. It was big enough that I could get into a sitting position, so I gave it a try. Everything was painted with soft filigreed light, and the air was ripe with the smell of dirt and lilac and mint and gently rotting humus. There was a pleasant hush to the spot, as if the hustle of everyday had moved far away. Best of all, I was completely hidden from view. A little thrill worked its way up my innards, as if I was a six-year-old who’d come upon the perfect hide-and-seek concealment.

Since that day I have visited the nook every now and then. It’s a bit of a hassle for a grown man to wriggle through scratchy undergrowth to get there, but once inside the friendly confines you’re pretty much guaranteed a peaceful respite from responsibility. As a bonus, I’ve done some of my most introspective thinking in the hideaway (true, there’s not much else to do in there). Accordingly, I have over time developed a core set of Existential Questions To Ponder:

1) Why am I sitting in the side garden?

This is an excellent question and I’m glad it comes up with regularity. Obviously, being in nature is good for the soul, and I feel very relaxed and at peace in my impromptu monastery. It certainly beats sitting in traffic, or a corporate meeting. If Deb calls for me to haul the trash bins out to the street I can successfully pretend I don’t exist. I do give serious consideration to the fact that, due to the nature (get it?) of my surroundings, a tick might crawl undetected up my pants leg and deliver a crippling dose of Lyme’s disease. That would pretty much put a damper on everything.

2) Why are ticks so disturbing?

That’s definitely one of Earth’s mysteries. Spiders, ants, beetles, and birds feed on ticks, so ticks have certain food-chain obligations. But lets be frank—Ixodes are bloodsucking parasites, and there’s something especially creepy about bloodsucking parasites, especially little bitty tiny ones you can hardly see who are capable of really fucking you up.

3) Am I hiding from something?

Wow, the big questions just keep popping up. It’s true that occasionally I don't want anybody to see me. I’m not sure why. I know that at night deer have snuggled down in this very spot—perhaps there’s some biochemically induced sense of security to be had when tucked away inside walls of leafy greenery. Although now that I think about it, the presence of deer exponentially increases the chances that ticks are close at hand.

4) What should I do when I’m done hiding away and pondering?

Tough one. Maybe go make a peanut butter-and-jam sandwich using graham crackers instead of bread. Then slather myself with insect repellent, tuck my pants legs inside my socks, and go back out to the side garden with that brand new pair of pruning shears and get to work. This isn’t a deer sanctuary, it’s a landscape ripe with potential! And I’m going to get after it. I think.

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