New Column: Man Vs. Plant
Medusa was back, and she was after my family.
Not the Gorgon from Greek mythology. She’s been dead thousands of years.
Rather her namesake, the plant/monster that climbs up the side of a narrow archway at the entrance to our backyard and then coils above it in an unruly mass that warns outsiders: You are about to enter the home of people who have little to no control over their lives.
I don’t blame Medusa alone for our state of affairs. I blame the entire plant kingdom.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned since owning a small backyard full of weeds, many of which I’m sure are as yet unknown to horticulturalists, it’s that I’d rather there were bears back there.
You can stop bears by chopping off their heads. Or, more cruelly, by naming an underperforming sports team after them so they slink away in shame.
But you can spend entire weekends in your yard hacking and yelling away at every protruding green thing. You can hire professional landscapers, even ones not secretly on your plants’ payroll.
It doesn’t matter. The protruding green things will return. It will end in tears. These tears will land on the protruding green things, causing them to grow more.
Sometimes the things aren’t green. We have mushrooms in one corner of our backyard. They grow in a ring. It looks like a mushroom cult. I fear one day I’ll return home to see they’ve convinced my impressionable young son to join them.
We also have a three-foot-by-two-foot-and-growing ant colony where grass not so long ago was. My wife first tried all-natural remedies, which involved sprinkling on the colony many types of food that no ants in the world except the ones in our yard can tolerate. Now we still have ants but not much food.
We decided to bite the bullet and buy ant poison, which really should just be called “poison.” The warning label on the packaging essentially tells you to wear a Hazmat suit while applying, and makes you wonder if all the world leaders working to eliminate nuclear weapons are worried about thewrong thing.
Anyhow, I have been selected as the person in my family to administer the poison, but I am stalling until I reach an age I don’t mind dying at.
People talk about becoming one with nature. The people who say that don’t have yards. When I’m out there, in 90-degree heat with the Hazmat on, there’s no oneness, no peace. I want to kill the plants. I pretend I hear them screaming as I bring my garden shears to their necks. My only regret is that they don’t bleed.
But the last laugh is always on me. We gave Medusa a trim at the beginning of spring. She didn’t see it as an act of kindness. A month later, she hadn’t just grown back, she’d let herself hang down. And she was always wet. When we passed by Medusa every day to leave the house, it was like walking through a car wash.
This past weekend, we went to Minnesota, hearing that people liked nature up there. Maybe the plants were kinder, we hoped. My in-laws, meanwhile, who had fled the Soviet Union, paid a visit to Medusa.
And they destroyed her.
I opened up the lawn bag containing her remains this morning. “I’m sorry,” I said.
To which she hissed, “Not as sorry as you will be a month from now.”