My hands are currently an itchy mess.
They're also caked with a pink salve that is supposed to stop the itching and heal the soreness.
Last weekend, I was back in the garden.
First a little history: I hate gardening. I hate everything about it: The back-breaking work, the sweat, the swarm of gnats that tries to push itself up my nostrils as I'm working. The existential conundrum that tells me that as soon as I pass over a patch of lawn with a mower, that those persistent little grass shoots start growing all over again. Same with the weeds that I yank out of the soil. It's the nightmare of the Myth of Sassafrasyphus.
I'm not even thrilled with the results. Not a big fan of sculpted hedgerows or rose bushes clipped into the form of swans.
Our home has a bed out front that runs just about the entire length of the house.
Over the years we've owned the home, this has become a battleground. Our builder had a few plantings in there, mostly to boost curb appeal. But over time, none have proven very hearty. We swapped a bush here for a ground-covering plant there, but nothing that would get us the cover of House and Garden.
We've gone nuclear in there as well: Yanking out every formerly green thing in the bed and "starting over." I remember a weekend spent dragging out the cloth weed barrier that the builder put in. It was like wrenching an ancient carpet that had been permanently glued to a hardwood floor.
And then there was what our girls now refer to as "Mulch Day." We would get a Mount Everest delivery of mulch and spend a Saturday spreading it everywhere. The girls would "help," which meant sprinkling chips with their out-of-season plastic snow shovels, but at the end of the day, it was usually just me... out there... alone... and miserable.
I've weeded, seeded, watered and worried.
And after a while, I've given up.
Mind you, it's not exactly in my genetic code to care that much about green things. As a kid, lawn-cutting duties were passed from my dad to my older brother, from him to the middle brother, and from him to me.
To whom I was able to pass off onto... exactly nobody!
So I soon began to resent my time behind the mower. Delving into home-ownership for myself didn't mitigate the pain.
We reached a point where we would pay someone to care for the bed for us, and I would watch with a mixture of understanding sympathy and barely contained glee as a crew attacked our weeds and overgrown bushes. I marveled when, as they finished, the front of our home no longer looked like 1313 Mockingbird Lane.
But this luxury was swept away by budgetary crunches. The past few summers, we weren't even mulching, in an attempt to keep finances under control.
This year, however, there was sufficient room to purchase a few bags of mulch. And last Saturday, after Eileen expressed utter disgust at what the bed had become (a weed-a-torium!), I rolled up my sleeves, donned some gardening gloves and dug in.
Several hours later, with the beginnings of a backache nagging, I was finished. And I'll admit it looks better. But now, I arrive home and give a glance and think: If I see one friggin clover pop its ugly head above that mulch, I'm attacking it with a shotgun!
Thus far, the clover and other weeds are keeping a low profile.
But they have had their revenge. I know what poison ivy looks like (thank you, Mom Cub Scout Den Mother). And I did wear gloves by working. But somehow...