By Audrey Y. Scharmen
On a cold March day she kneels in her garden, sowing summer, dreaming of yellow and white and blue blossoms of Dutch iris filling every bare place beneath the crabapple tree where the 'things' who live deep beneath ate all of last year's crop: They had waited until the plants were in full May bloom, then devoured the root of each one, dragging the carcasses down into their cavern, leaving only a neat empty hole where each iris had stood.
They will not be back, she mutters, ignoring the phantom rustlings beneath the soil where she digs. This year the bulbs will multiply and naturalize like a scene from an English countryside, just as she has always imagined. They will thrive and grow old with her and generations of flowers will live on and on long after she has gone. They will be her legacy.
This year she will be prepared for all catastrophes. She will do all the things for her garden that experts suggest. She will back her car up to the edge of the yard and attach a hose to the car's exhaust pipe. She will block all exits to the subterranean tunnels and flood them with a lethal dose of carbon monoxide, sending the destructive critters painlessly into oblivion.
When the grass begins to brown, she will feed it a tonic of beer, molasses and household ammonia and grow the greenest yard in the entire neighborhood. She will kill all weeds by dosing them with vinegar and her roomie's Beefeater gin. And there will be weekly shots of Jack Daniels to enhance her container plants. A big crop of four o'clock flowers will bloom all summer amid the perennials to poison the Japanese beetles. These are good things, and environmentally correct - so say the experts.
And she must not forget the bottle of fox urine: Frequent sprinklings kept the rabbits from her flowers all last summer and attracted, as well, a real fox during the following winter to relocate them.
It has taken her years of heartbreaking experiences to acquire all this wisdom. She has done her homework. Actually, gardening is simply a matter of common sense and logic, she muses.
She gazes about the garden where spring is, despite the blustering cold. There, in the creek is the cry of a solitary loon and the caroling of redwing blackbirds from the marsh beyond. A Carolina wren has slept each wintry night in a pine wreath on the porch. Bluebirds flit in and out of their house by the shore, and small rose finches - eternal optimists - fly about with nesting materials in their beaks. Flurries of snowflakes fall like ghost-petals from the barren boughs of the apple tree, and crocus blooms nearby with the last of January's snowdrops.
Two mute swans fly very low over the garden, the whirring of huge wings like those of a great hummingbird. One swan in pursuit of the other, planning a legacy.
This season can be hazardous to one's health. She has overdosed on euphoria. Her seritonin level soars and combines with a smidgin of latent dementia to spike an onset of spring fever. So she returns to her cozy lair to mix a soothing tonic. What shall it be? Sulfur and molasses, dandelion greens or some tender new cat-tail shoots? What is best for an aged Pisces person, still fruitful with strong-rooted tendencies?
What do the experts say?