“The Garden”

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The Garden

by Karen S. Elliott

Inspired by my mom, Lois Holmes Sanderson

***

Associated Trellis – Your Yard & Garden News Agency  

Today’s Headlines!

B52 Dragonfly Crashes in NM Desert

Raindrops Flood the South Heal Print

Three Injured in Hive Collapse

Migratory Birds Return – Nesting Prices Soar

Sports – Beetles Grab Coveted Butter-Cup

Cockroach Trial Enters Closing Arguments

The Ants convey the Royal Exalted One on a pheasant-feathered palanquin supported by bronze-colored poles. Millions of garden-crawlers have gathered for the court proceedings, buzzing and clicking.

They are such show-offs, the Ants – just because they can carry so much. Big deal. They all teek-teek on eensy feet about the dais, acting important. They are so boring to look at. All black like Goths. They make me sick with their arrogance. But I am an Under-Moth – a staff-reporter bug – and I must deal with it.

The Lady-Bugs-in-Waiting come next, they flutter behind in case some bug makes a misstep or loses a leg. The Exalted One sits upon her dais – a stage festooned with ridiculous paintings of the constellations. Her platform rises in the middle of fur-coated Caterpillars. They make me sick, too – they are so show-offy, those fur coats in ridiculous colors. And it’s after Memorial Day, so they should not be wearing their fur coats at all.

Some Stink Bug belches in the back. Crickets entertain us, their back legs and wings strumming. Pine cones are fired up by the Lightening Bugs and flare against faces of the spectators. Chandeliers of Spiders’ webs reflect the pine cones and the Lightning Bugs’ derrieres. For a moment, I am mesmerized by the glow; my nature begs me to flit toward the light. I wrestle with my feelings; I stay still.

The Spiders trundle their saddlebags across the cobblestones and picnic on wrapped-up corpses. Above, the surrounding scaffolding groans with the weight of millions of Gnats. As if this was a picnic, thousands of the Gnats play and watch a light-spirited chess game; each contingent moves a piece along the squares on the chessboard. Underworld side bets are taking place, nesting items being exchanged like trading cards. Kennels of ticks, they bark and bang against the wire with boundless energy.

The Exalted Mantis surveys the assembly. Holy Mealworms! Is that a felt scrap fashioned into a Colonial tri-corner hat on the Mantis? On a triangular head? That fashion statement is rather redundant, don’t you think? Someone must talk to her costume attendant. I much prefer last winter’s Russian ushanka to this ridiculous frippery.

The Mantis raises her fore-most legs.

Outside, royal attendants stop the weathercock with an excruciating squeal, its tail reflecting the dying rays of a setting sun. All activity stops in anticipation of the proceedings.

Amorous eight-legged spinners stop and suspend webs, sixteen legs in a final upheaval, stricken in mid-weave.

The Mantis bangs the gavel – the trial begins.

Snails monitor the activity very slowly, shells polished like constabulary badges. Outside, a Lady-Bug-in-Waiting is snared on the thorn of a tea rose! Several officers slursh over to the disturbance, silver slime and shiny shells march out to quiet the interruption.

Butterflies flit about flapping multi-colored wings of amethyst and cerulean and scarlet, pointing their antennae at those who are disruptive. The Hummingbird Brigade is overhead, creating breezes so that we can suffer the humidity of the day.

Along the perimeter, floral clusters crane their stem-necks and point their open blooms to the action on the bandstand. Youthful stamens and pistils are straining and stretching; they vie for attention and are shushed! Their elders flare their petals – a final murmur and then a hush.

The case continues:

The Mantis raises an appendage and demands silence; she rotates her head and glares at the Snails. They tick their shells, one against the other, signaling for quiet. A hush. We all watch the stilled weathercock. We wait to see which way the Mantis will direct its swing to announce the  verdict. The verdict comes down.

There has been conspiracy among the Cockroaches! This cannot stand! This cannot be allowed! The multiple eyes of multiple nations are upon us! We set a precedent, and a decision is dealt upon the prehistoric little garbage-munchers. The Mantis points to the compost foothills. We banish them!

It is decided.

It will be written on cast-off parchment wings and fur pelts of ancestral Caterpillars.

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Associated Trellis – Extra! 

Cockroaches Guilty as Charged!

From my perch on the trellis, overlooking the hub-bub in the soil and tiny pebbles of The Garden below, I watch the Snails escort the convicted Cockroaches – bound up in braided-ivy-vine – across the wide expanse of the garden. Slowed to the Snails’ pace, the Cockroaches lurch like zombies as the contingency travels over decorative brick and hot desert slate. Their expedition is observed by Millipede urchins and an assortment of Beetles in fine Queen Anne’s lace petticoats. They are on their way to the compost.

Arachnid runners in hourglass-stamped tunics jump to my side with the latest interviews and eye-witness reportage from the ground. Dragonflies alight on surrounding leaves with their eye-in-the-sky accounts.

Below, spectators and hecklers en route hurl discarded coffee grounds and bits of rotted cabbage. The Cockroaches snick-snick along, fettered together like a chain gang. Wild flowers unwrap their withering petals, slinging dried up pollen upon the procession. Not that it would damage the Cockroach’s armor plating – it is simply an exhibition of disgust.

I lament the current state of insect affairs. It seems that just weeks ago all was serene here in this patch of The Garden.  We all knew the responsibilities of our genus, be we Lepidopteron, Arachnid, Coleopteran; coming out of cocoon or burrow or hive, we all knew our place. Ah, the good ole days; how I miss them.

As I wax nostalgic, Battalions of Dandelions release clusters of fluffy white paratroopers. They float, caught on the breezes. In crisp military fashion, they fan out and set up their posts.

I exchange pieces of molted-wing parchment with several stringer Moths, and dispatch them to the lower trellis floors. Ancient presses start their incessant clanging; recycled butterfly-wing scales are loaded and ground into ink and readied for printing.

Through my compound orbs, I watch as two Cockroaches in Ghillie suits push a curious conveyance of upturned shell into a copse of mushrooms. My breath catches. My phototactic eyes bulge.

Boom! The shell of fertilizer explodes! The shock wave rumbles across the garden, from the daffodils to the impatiens, blowing Moths, Butterflies and other creatures into a tangle of legs and wings.

The smoke clears from the blast site and a crater the size of a bird bath emerges. Insurgent Roaches scurry in clutching spears of dried grass. They punch through the constraints of their brethren, liberating them.

The stench of charred wings and scorched appendages floats skyward in a black cloud. Pulverized Snail shells litter the blast zone; their slime plops upon the earth. Dead leaves are pounded into mulch. Royal attendants scramble to secure our Exulted Mantis.

Under my six feet, cracks appear in the trellis. I hear snapping noises. My workmates and I tremble on a precipitous ledge. Bugs cling to the trellis with all the legs they’ve got. Cries of terror and pain disrupt the black after-bomb silence. My feathery antennae are tingly and itchy. I see EMT’s – Emergency Medical Ticks – dispatched, and they begin infusing stored blood into the wounded.

Further out, among the branches of the mighty oak and maple, our avian neighbors sit and observe, their twittering silenced.

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The Garden Birds

My favorite time of year. Time to build a new home from fluff out of the dryer vent, discarded bits of yarn from old sweaters; weave in a few twigs and bits of lint that flutter down from clothes pinned on the Gardener’s line. Sometimes I get lucky and find a lose thread on a cloth diaper. That’s the ultimate find for a nest-builder.

Ah, what’s that smell? My mate – in his pointed red fedora and lush black beard – has brought me a gobbet of suit sprinkled with seed! The slick and creamy delicacy feels so deliciously decadent on my beak. What a good provider he is, the most handsome Cardinal in all the garden. He winks his limpid black eye at me and asks would I like to rub wings later. He gives me an affectionate beak tweak.

Several branches away a mad disharmony erupts between two odious Blue Jays – their crests erect, blue and black feathers engaged in a broiling rustle. They are in a duel over a female. What a ridiculous exhibition. I turn away.

An iridescent rainbow cascades past my branch. Ah, the Hummers. How lovely their costumes; they are a hasty parade of amethyst, ruby, sapphire, and jade. Rather ungainly beaks they have, making them the brunt of good-natured teasing. Their fluttering creates the most delicious breeze. I’d invite them in for respite, but our tastes are incompatible.

There is nasty business going on down in the city of bugs, among the rubbish of the compost. Most distressing. By Avian Law, we are not permitted to interfere. We must observe and silence our tweets. Their preposterous squabbles create great disorder and infect my dreams. The most recent disturbance was muffled at this distance. We have now gotten twitterings of the verdict and the horrifying news of the explosion from the orange-breasted Robins and the acrobatic Finches (I admit that I am often jealous of the Finches – the way they are able to hang upside down. What a merriment that must be!)

Dour-looking Crows roost on the wire adjacent to the Trellis. They wait for word from the grapevine about the filling of the bird feeder. The Crows will tell the Woodpeckers; the Woodpeckers will tack-tack the news for all to hear. Such yummies our Gardener puts out for us – black sunflower seeds, safflower, cracked corn, peanuts, an occasional handful of currants. Droves of Mockingbirds and Thrashers flutter in when she sets out a halved apple or other chopped fruits. I do not care for the fruits – they wreak havoc on my delicate digestion.

Our Gardener scrubbed and re-filled the birdbath before the setting of yesterday’s sun. What a holiday atmosphere this creates! Jump in! The water is fine, so fine. The juveniles are reprimanded by their mothers about deposits recklessly left. They are sent home with quiet dispatch.

A squeal from the portal – here she comes! The Gardener is coming! Several of our Avian persuasion beat wing away from the suet and the bathers retreat. The rest of us in the branches are quiet, waiting for today’s banquet to appear. I observe, attentively, smacking my beak.

She is so kind, our Gardener, so respectful.

She amuses me when she whistles. I do not understand one word. But bless her for trying.

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The Gardener

Squeee!

Oh goodness, I need to oil those hinges. Every time I open the screen door, I scare away all the birds! Oh wait, there’s a couple of Cardinals up in the maple tree. Isn’t that nice: they’ve built a nest, started a home. That male Cardinal, snuggled up next to his lady, looks like they are smooching. Those Blue Jays are so raucous! Must they be so noisy?

Hush now!

What a lovely day, not too hot, not too chilly. I just love the spring. The sun is bright and so warm. Don’t want to get a burn, so it’s the shade for me. I’ll just sit here in my rickety lawn chair and nurture my first iced tea of the day. Ah! I really do need to pick up a new chair. My butt’s gonna bust through this thing any day.

Oh, Hummingbirds! I should have brought my camera out with me, darn it. They are so beautiful – all those shiny colors. They look like feathered jewels.

Vrtt! Here they are. Vrtt! There they go.

Those silly Yellow Finches, how do they do that, hang upside down and eat? Like tiny circus acrobats. I’ve never seen any other bird hang like that. I hope those Crows over there don’t bother them. It looks like they are waiting around for some big bird announcement. The Crows, they can be a bother, always shooing and flappity-flapping their wings at the others.

Darn it – look at that bird bath. And I just scrubbed it yesterday! Ah well. And the feeder, too – nearly empty! And look at the suet. It’s nearly gone already! Piggy birdies. Unless the squirrels are getting up there….

My garden, so quiet and peaceful. No traffic noises from the highway, no grandkids under foot. It’s almost too quiet.

Twe-whoo, twe-whoo. The lady Cardinal looks at me funny – cocking her head – when I whistle. I wonder if she understands me.

1:15…20 minutes until the ball game. Hey, that tickles—what is…? Aw, a Lady Bug. I’ll just put her on this little tea rose over here. Gently, gently, Lois. There ya go little lady! How precious, her little fluttery wings.

Oh! A Praying Mantis! They take my breath! Look at her sitting there on that leaf, so regal, like she thinks she’s a queen. I wonder if she’s after those moths. Ew, Spiders on the trellis. Well, they serve a purpose too, I ‘spose. All these bugs, running about, so busy busy busy.

Are those Cockroaches?! Ah!

Agnes, bring me the bug spray! Quick! Odd, it looks like that Cockroach over at the compost is wearing a grass skirt! Now why would a Cockroach need a grass skirt?

You’re losing it, Lois.

Oh dear, what’s with this brown spot? And all these bits of shell? Guess I’ll have to seed that. Hmm, seed, burlap, couple’a nails to hold down the burlap. Need to pull out the hose….

Lois! The game’s started!

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20 Comments

Filed under Prose & Poetry, Special Events

20 responses to ““The Garden”

  1. Just right for a sunny day in May!

  2. Fantastical!! All gardeners should read this, to know what they’re dealing with (and to be kind to all the life below them). Your mom was a tender gardener (and probably knew very well the stories of those in the earth and the air, much like her daughter!)

    • karenselliott

      She could tell you facts about every flower and creature in the garden. I remember how excited she would get when the spring flowers arrived at the garden store! Beautiful garden every year.

  3. I like having the different perspectives 😉

  4. Loved the humor in The Garden. Very clever and fun. Each article connected with a reverence for nature and life. Your mother really loved nature and her gardens. Such an appropriate tribute. The Gardner was also a favorite. Kind of fits with Endangered Species Day on Friday.

  5. karenselliott

    I am glad you enjoyed it, Patricia! I think about the only thing Mom didn’t care for were cockroaches. Not that we ever had any in OUR house – you could eat off of Mom’s floor. Yes, she was kind to all creatures.

  6. Banish the cockroaches!
    Inspired. What a treat and now I want to play in the dirt.

    • karenselliott

      During the spring and summer and early fall, Mom had a hard time keeping clean nails and hands. And she’d rarely wear gloves. She like the feel of the dirt.

  7. Esther

    Oh Karen…what a delight! I’ll have to nudge all my gardening friends over here.

  8. What a delightful romp in the garden for anyone who loves to be surrounded by its unique denizens! I’ve had my eye on the alliums this week as each day the round bulbs open up to reveal their wonderful blossoms.

    • karenselliott

      That’s what I need – flowers around the apartment and along the river bank and near the patio. Once I’m sure it’s going to stay warm, I’m going to plant a few buckets full of them.

  9. A great story to send to your pen pal. Bet she’ll re-read it many times over.

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