Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

A Labor of Love: Serious Gardening Takes Heart, Soul

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

A Labor of Love: Serious Gardening Takes Heart, Soul

Article excerpt

WHEN I GOT home Sunday afternoon after a relaxing weekend in the country, my giant sunflowers were lying on the ground, and my bad cat, Ratty, was missing again.

Looking for someone to blame, I naturally blamed my favorite someone. A pox on that husband of mine, I thought. He forgot to water. He left the door standing open, and the cat ran out.

I know it is a calculated risk to leave a garden and a cat in the care of someone who is lukewarm about cats and ice-cold about gardening.

"When better weed-whackers are made, Jewish men will not use those, either," my husband, a Jewish man, likes to say.

Nevertheless, I had a week off from work, and I was determined to get away from camp laundry, bored children and my favorite someone, if only for a day or two. So I took the calculated risk and lost.

As it turns out, neither of the disasters was my husband's fault. The cat had run off the night before I left town, and bolted to the neighborhood we lived in five years ago. I found him there when I got back. He had tuna on his breath and murder in his eye at being rousted from the garbage can that's his home away from home. The kindly widow he sponges off of wasn't too thrilled to see me, either.

"He just craves affection," she said, as I dragged Ratty from the garbage can condo her late husband had built for him. "I thought he was going to spend the week with me. I was going to the store today to get him some Chef's Blend. He likes that kind."

As for my sunflowers, a brief but punishing rainstorm had knocked them down, flattening the clumps of purple coneflowers and white phlox at their feet. The sight of the sunflowers - the biggest was nearly 10 feet tall - with their huge heads face down in the mud was enough to make me cry.

Wherever I've lived, I've always had some sort of garden. But until this year my gardening habits could charitably be called cavalier. I planted peas, green onions and spinach in Vermont in a side yard the size of a bathmat. I moved away before I could harvest them.

In Wisconsin, I grew sickly morning glories in shallow window boxes, and ignored my zucchini plants until the squash were obscenely large and utterly flavorless. …

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