O Lord, thank You for zinnias, which I plant every year because they add flower fireworks to my yard; rarely have to be fed or watered; and finally, OMG, thank You for making them tall enough to hide my almost-September garden from the neighbors.
Many people suffer from cabin fever during winter, when slippery sidewalks keep them inside. Instead, I suffer from summer fever. When sizzling sidewalks threaten to fry me, I hibernate inside.
Soon, though, the six-year-old in me has to play outdoors. One evening, when sidewalks and temperatures had cooled to bearable, I considered two summer fever cures: a Moose Tracks sundae or a wildflower bouquet.
Because stern bathroom scales had issued a nasty final warning, the noncaloric remedy won. Too early for fireflies, but also too early for a mosquito assault — I hoped, since I’d neglected using stinky repellent — I headed for a nearby field.
Reaching the pasture, I forgot about insects. A blizzard had arrived in summer! Drifts of Queen Anne’s lace, like thousands of giant snowflakes, covered the meadow.
I felt cooler already.
A poem by Mary Leslie Newton lilted through my mind: “Queen Anne, Queen Anne, has washed her lace/ (She chose a summer’s day) …”
No teacher had assigned the poem. I’d memorized it as a fourth grader simply because I loved it.
A skinny little girl in baggy shorts, I explored sweltering, but magical, Indiana meadows with an enchanting lady wearing a crown. Queen Anne didn’t sweat as she gathered her exquisite laces dried in pasture grasses, laces that, according to legend, had won the tatting competition she’d initiated with her ladies-in-waiting.
As a grown-up, though, I made the mistake of researching Queen Anne’s lace online. Gasp! Some states included it on “noxious weed” lists.
Insult Queen Anne? How dare they!
Instead of the aristocratic name, they called it “wild carrot” and “bird’s nest” — even “chigger weed”!
Now, I not only sweated, I itched.
Queen Anne’s lace also resembled young hogweed, a plant that made poison ivy seem like a botanical best buddy. My favorite wildflower also resembled hemlock, the poison that killed Socrates.
Not the kind of magic I liked.
Not a cure for summer fever.
Too late, I examined my “snowflake’” stems.
Whew! No purple dots that identify both hemlock and hogweed.
The hairy stems of genuine Queen Anne’s lace didn’t reflect her elegance, but they reassured me. I could return to my fairy-tale world without a qualm — occasionally good for a grown-up. Back to the magic of Queen Anne, who never sweat or itched. Back to picking snowflakes that wouldn’t melt when I arranged them in a crystal vase, admiring the wintry effect against a blue wall.
Returning with my bouquet, I mused that Queen Anne’s cure for summer fever — imagination — had worked well.
Did the noncaloric remedy top the ice cream cure?
Um … kid or adult, I’d have to plead the Fifth.
Extraordinary Ordinary: What’s your cure for summer fever?
After writing a novel, I emerged from my cave, craving ice cream, conversation and sunlight. A Moose Tracks sundae equaled ice cream therapy. Hubby, waiting for a coherent word from me, took grunts as a portent of better things.
I drank in sunlight. Summer morning air. Green, living things.
Unfortunately, most were weeds. Thousands of Klingon sticker weeds had conquered garden and flower beds.
A flabby author’s perfect therapy: a down-and-dirty battle to rescue oppressed plants. To arms, garden warrior!
I donned grubby jeans, T-shirt, baseball cap and tennis shoes, all of which remembered the turn of the millennium.
Hubby: “No PJs? You’re wearing real clothes?”
For him, it was a long novel.
We bathed in sunscreen as if with war paint, then took up weapons: hoe, rake, hand spade — and cushy kneeling pad.
The sticker weeds jeered at my weak knees. Their lackeys — purslane, marestail, purple deadnettle and, of course, dandelions — joined in. (I researched weed names on a Purdue website. Battle Rule #1: know your enemies.) But I didn’t look up Klingon sticker weeds. I knew dangerous aliens when I saw them.
Weed phasers would have been nice additions to our weaponry cache. But Hubby struck vicious blows, hoeing squash and cucumbers. I attacked beleaguered tomato plants’ foes.
Tanned cyclists zoomed past. Hubby eyed them longingly, but continued valiant efforts. Ponytailed runners wearing designer attire and perfect makeup stared as if they hoped what I had wasn’t catching.
Whew! After a morning-long battle, we showered, wolfed sandwiches and Hubby went to work.
I peered out the back door, wanting to savor the view of our perfect garden again.
My jaw dropped.
An overloaded mulberry tree branch had dropped like a bomb, bending tomato plant cages. Smaller branches, leaves and mashed berries smothered veggie rows.
The mulberry tree was in cahoots with Klingon sticker weeds!
Such perfect timing. The moment Hubby left the driveway, the tree had unleashed its barrage.
I yanked at the big branch. It barely budged.
“You think you’ve won, Klingon-sticker-weed lover? Well, you’ve got another thing coming.”
A giant swoosh of anger can fuel a woman. Armed with hedge trimmers, saws and my husband’s old Boy Scout hatchet, I reduced my enemy to sawdust. Well, not exactly. But by afternoon’s end, I’d removed most of the mess.
Superwoman still couldn’t move the big branch. When Hubby returned, he sawed it into sections and hauled them out.
Once again, I savored the sight of tidy rows of vegetables.
Ah, the sunset. The fragrant summer evening. Green things that were legal.
A tired writer’s perfect therapy.
Exactly what she needed to send her back to her laptop forever!
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Does gardening relax you or wipe you out?