Ten Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Garden

All kinds of reasons are offered for gardening, from relaxation or psychotherapy to attracting birds or being closer to God, but none are ever given as to why we shouldn’t. The unwary public deserves to know the truth before undertaking such a questionable if not downright hazardous activity.

Plants die. This is an indisputable fact verified many times by independent observers around the world. No matter how hard you garden or how great your gardening skills the end result will always be the same. What is the point of this futile exercise, knowing your plants are all doomed?

Plants grow. Growing plants require lots more watering, fertilizing, staking, deadheading and pruning. The bigger the plant the more work. Soon you will have no time left for anything else.  Is your life so worthless that you would give it all up for a shrub?

Plants don’t stop at one. It is the nature of all living things to make more of themselves. Before you know it, your garden, not to mention every square inch of your living space, will be awash in baby plants demanding your attention. You brought them into this world, now you must take care of them. The happy-go-lucky life you once led is over.

Plants attract animals. The minute a plant pops out of the ground some animal will find it.  Some will eat your plants. Some will use them for construction sites or materials. And some will just trample or pee on your plants.

Gardens get noticed. It starts with an innocent compliment from one of your neighbors about “how nice your pansies look this year.” But don’t be fooled. The compliment is a foil to distract you from what your neighbors are really thinking:  that your garden looks like crap and you don’t know flowers from a hill of beans. Pretty soon your local homeowner’s Gestapo association will be paying a visit to inform you that your garden does not meet neighborhood code and to weed it before nightfall or face execution.

Plants and gardens are imperfect and so are you. Since no plant is perfect and the state of perfection is but an ideal, the attainment of a perfect garden is physically impossible. You will always feel inadequate and worthless to the task. There are plenty of other things in life that make you feel this way, so why add one more?

Gardens attract thieves and other lowlifes. Your garden and all the plants in it might be so close to perfection, however, that it attracts the wrong kind of people. They will steal your plants.  They will steal your ideas. And they will steal all of your free time by asking you to make a garden for them just like yours.

Gardening involves the use of sharp objects. Though gardening is often described as a gentle pastime, it is quite the contrary. More often it is a brutal affair involving lots of cutting, clearing, thrashing, sawing, tilling and killing. The books never mention the ugly wounds that can be inflicted by careless use of sharp trowels, not to mention Rototillers.

Gardening encourages profanity. At best, gardening is mostly a losing proposition. You spend all those hours sweating in the hot sun, breaking your back and your fingernails, then planting, weeding, cultivating and watering your little charges in an unending cycle of toil, only to find them one day flattened by wind or ravaged by snails. Though gardeners sometimes claim to be closer to God in their gardens, the words that come out of their mouths at such moments are not exactly fit for a deity’s ears.

Gardening is insane.  Ask any gardener: once you start gardening you never want to stop. Performing an activity over and over again that always brings the same result—pain and suffering—is an unmistakable sign of insanity.

                                                © Gene Twaronite 2013

The Pipe in the Closet

(Introductory Note: I wrote this essay back when my wife and I lived in a two-family house in Providence. Whether or not the pipe still remains in the closet I cannot say.)

A recent nightmare got me thinking about it again. I was paid a visit by James Arness—not as the reassuring western hunk of his Gunsmoke days but as that darkly disturbing alien hulk portrayed in The Thing. He was trying to come through our front door. Lacking an M-1 rifle (which, come to think of it, didn’t work all that well in the movie), I hit his arm with the only weapon at hand—a book. I can’t recall the title, but it didn’t slow him down in the least. I tried another and another, but he kept right on coming. Just as that awful hand was about to clutch my throat … I woke up. There was no monster, except perhaps the one staring back at me from the mirrored closet across the room.  And it was then that I remembered that other thing which still resides there.

A handy piece of iron pipe, about three feet long, it had been in that closet ever since we bought our house in Providence, RI. The only time it wasn’t there was during a brief period of bedroom remodeling. That would have been a good time to remove it from my life, once and for all, but no. Quietly I put it back, obeying some strange impulse. And it sits there now in the darkness, waiting to do my bidding.

As to what I would actually do with this pipe, I’m not sure. I can just imagine myself, faced with some nocturnal alarm, reaching for my weapon from the place where it has always been. With two shaky hands I will grasp and absorb its iron strength. Fierce and invincible like a great Lithuanian knight of old, I will swish it about. And most likely, I will smash the closet mirror, drop the pipe on my toes and pass out on the floor.

Admittedly, it is not the best home security system. The fact that I considered the need for security at all is just one of many psychological adjustments a person makes in moving to an urban neighborhood. In our former suburban and country digs, the possibility of some drug-crazed, homicidal maniac trying to break down our front door had always seemed a remote one. Now it doesn’t seem quite as unlikely, thanks to daily police reports and the occasional grim rumor from skittish neighbors. But this was our new home. My wife and I had chosen to live here because it offered us an environment more stimulating than the cloistered purity of the countryside or the boring nothingness of the suburbs. Part of that stimulation, however, as with life in general, comes from our awareness of the dark side—knowing that we share the same streets and rub elbows with a few individuals whose backgrounds and values are so vastly different from our own as to think nothing of bashing in our front door, or worse, to rob us of what little wealth and peace of mind we still possess.

This is not to suggest we spent our nights cowering in the living room, with all the lights on, awaiting some cold, cruel visitor. We took reasonable precautions, such as installing dead bolt locks (and remembering to use them) and not leaving things like money, furs, or jewelry on the front porch.

Once, however, we did consider taking more drastic measures, though not quite as drastic as that in a newspaper ad.  Beneath a picture of a “395 security system”—a handgun, actually—the ad promoted a popular electronic system that is both cheaper and more effective, since the gun “can’t call the police.” That is the trouble with handguns.  They aren’t very smart. They can’t do much of anything except to hurl a bullet into the living body of some person, quite often the wrong person. But such is the price of security, some would say.

And the trouble with at least some electronic security systems is that they do call the police, over and over, like the boy who cried wolf. Or they inflict their raucous signals on entire neighborhoods, shattering the peace far more effectively than any heavy metal music. Having to live with these noxious car and house alarms, which seem to go off at the slightest change in temperature or humidity, and most frequently in the wee hours of deepest, hard won slumber, I would prefer that the owners of these infernal contraptions just stick their heads out the window and scream as long as they pleased. At least it would be more human than the electronic whine that slices through my spine like a filet knife. And the screams would stop a whole lot quicker, I suspect, than the eternity it takes a siren to be turned off. As for me, I would rather not own such things as require an alarm, having more than enough alarms in my life already. Indeed, I would rather have all my worldly possessions stolen right out from under me than to inflict such torture upon my good neighbors.

Yet, as the security ad reminds us, “one in four American homes is victimized by crime.”  So what are we to do?

Well, we could buy a dog, says my buddy from Boston, a victim of one too many break-ins. Get one that barks at the sound of leaves falling. Not a yap, mind you, but a full-throated, hound from the heath kind of bark—one that would make an intruder think twice. But since nearly every house in our neighborhood, not to mention the city, seems to have at least one canine inhabitant, why bother?  If I got a dog, even a dog that barked every second, who would notice? The only thing one might notice in our neighborhood would be the sound of no barking.

Which brings me back to my pipe. While it may seem primitive or foolish to some, there is much to recommend it. First of all, it’s cheap. Ours was left there by the previous owners.  I wonder if they, too, kept it there for a similar reason. Also, it doesn’t require bullets or electricity. And no maintenance is ever required, except perhaps an occasional light coat of Rust-Oleum.

Furthermore, there are no buttons to push. No codes or instructions to forget. Picking up a pipe, or as in the case of our fossil ancestors a club, is not something you easily forget. We’ve had clubs in our caves far too long to forget.

This violent, primitive image of myself does give me pause, however. Why do I, a grown man, still feel the need to keep a pipe in his closet? As a boy, I played with wooden swords and toy guns. Later, as a young man, I played with real knives and guns, indulging my Western fantasies. Fortunately, I grew out of them before hurting anyone. Yet the pipe’s still there.

I suppose the pipe represents some last vestige of primal reaction to an ancient and very real fear. Would I actually use it if the time comes? Who can say? Perhaps, rather than marching down the stairs to confront the attacker, I will merely hide under the covers or, better yet, send my wife down in my place. But one thing I know. If I do go down those steps alone, I must have something in my hands. I am just not strong enough to face the midnight terror unarmed.

I must have my prop to convince me at least, if not the attacker, that I will defend our home with the proper fervor. But a book, even the most ponderous tome of metaphysics, simply will not do. And neither will a gun, for then I might actually shoot someone, and that is a price I will not pay. So I’ll grab my trusty pipe. If forced to use it, most likely I will, for then it won’t be a shot in the dark but a last ditch attempt at survival. Not that I would get to use it. Someone determined or crazy enough to break into our house will not be deterred by the sight of a middle-aged man in his underwear with a pipe. He’ll probably laugh till he cries, then calmly kill me. But at least I won’t wake up the neighbors.                                                                                            © Gene Twaronite 2012



The Right to Bear Arms

I have always believed in the right to bear arms, though legs, brains, and hearts are no less important.

Arms go rather handily on humans. A uniquely hominid evolutionary invention, they just don’t make it on any other creature. Even our primate relatives, while sometimes pretending to have arms, still treat them more as legs. And those people who twist the saying to “the right to arm bears” make no sense at all. A bear has forelimbs, not arms. Oh, some will try to be cute and say that a starfish has arms. As for those who refer to the “spiral arms” of a galaxy, they’re just too far out for comment.

It is hard to figure why this basic biological right had to be spelled out in the second amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Except for those who, through heredity or misfortune, do not have arms, keeping and bearing these appendages seems like the perfectly natural thing to do. While those of us who have arms should be grateful, we certainly don’t need to be told this by the federal or any other government. Bearing arms is a God-given right.

The writers of this amendment were just trying to be careful, I guess. Without arms “a well-regulated militia” to protect our liberties would hardly be possible. I am proud to say that in the event of a true national emergency, there are four arms in our household. Some of our neighbors have even more arms on hand—ten, twenty or thirty in some cases. Talk about armed fortresses! We can all rest peacefully tonight, knowing that such vast arm-ies exist out here in the hinterlands.

Just think of all the arms in households across America—over three hundred million pairs and growing. No enemy would dare to threaten such armed might, not unless they wish for Armageddon.

I for one am grateful for the NRA—the National Right to Arms—and its continuing efforts to weaken or undo any arms control legislation in this country. There are those among us who would whittle away at our traditional right to have arms on our persons and in our homes. They would make it hard to transport arms across state lines: what would they have us do—cut them off?

I also thank God every day that this country resists the international siren call of arms control in the name of peace. It’s bad enough that we have some nuts here who want to take our arms away.  Just think what might happen if whole countries got into this business. Pretty soon no one in the world would have arms—a real armistice. No arm wrestling even. And what, pray tell, would the arms merchants do?

Perhaps we need to add some more amendments to the Constitution to protect our rights to bear other things. The right to bear sturdy legs and brave hearts. And the right to bear and cultivate a good working brain—all too rare a thing nowadays.  To bear in mind anything worth bearing becomes increasingly hard to do.

We need to bear other things as well.  We need to bear witness to the truth, regardless of the cost.  And we need to bear tidings of peace to one another on this increasingly hostile, shrinking planet. Indeed, perhaps these things are even more important to bear than   arms.                                                                                                                                                                                                   ©Gene Twaronite

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