There’s this nine-by-four-foot strip of dirt in front of my writing studio where my ex planted the last of three stands of different types of bamboo around our handkerchief-sized yard. Twenty years later this particular stand started dying. This was shortly after he disappeared for good—a whole other story—some kind of blight; the canes turned yellow and the leaves dropped until it looked like a scene from Cormac McCarthy’s, The Road. Ignoring conventional wisdom that it’s impossible to get rid of bamboo without dynamite, for the next six months I went at what seemed like an underground forest with a pickaxe, a bit at a time.
When most of the big stuff was out, I sat in the dirt and hacked at the rest with a small hand hoe until every last bit of bamboo was out. I wanted to plant wildflowers, create a carpet of color. I could just see it. My first Single-Person garden. But I was concerned about Fergie, who was four months old at the time and, unlike Jake, a digger. I couldn’t have her ruining my first big gardening project. I tried to catch her in action to discourage further problems, and managed to do so in this shot, a full body dig.
As you can see, her head and front paws are a blur from the vigor of her endeavor. Every time I managed to catch her doing the deed, I’d yell and charge toward her. She’d freeze and stare at me like I’d lost my mind then flee into my writing studio.
What to do? Should I build a little fence around my new garden? Should I plant cacti instead? Full grown bushes? No. I wanted flowers, lots of colorful flowers. The wildflowers had come to represent my new life, my independence. I had to have them. I would just remain vigilant over Fergie’s digging.
Finally, every last root was out. I rototilled, added soil-enrichers and it was done. Rake in hand, I stared down at the rich black earth, my heart swelling with pride and excitement. Fergie padded over and stood gazing down at the ground with me.
“No digging, right?” I said, sternly. It was just enough of a reprimand to send her dashing for my studio. Jake appeared out of nowhere and charged after her. I sighed. I was kidding myself. I couldn’t do this. I couldn’t stand to have her dig up my plants and I wasn’t going to do anything about it if she did. There would be no wildflowers; I’d figure out later what to plant.
It was just enough of a reprimand to send her dashing for my studio. Jake appeared out of nowhere and charged after her. I sighed. I was kidding myself. I couldn’t do this. I couldn’t stand to have her dig up my plants and I wasn’t going to do anything about it if she did. There would be no wildflowers; I’d figure out later what to plant.
Two days later, as I stepped out my gate to get the newspaper, I noticed a bag propped against the gate. It was a packet of wildflowers seeds. My landscaping buddy, Laural, from across the street. She’d heard me going on about my plans. I stared down at the bag. Screw it. I was going for it. If only one flower survived Fergie’s excavations that was good enough for me.
I sowed the seeds, hoping I was doing it right. A month later, Laural gave me half a bag of daffodil bulbs. I stuck those in the soil as well, and then for the next four months, I tended the soil, yelled at Fergie, and worked on letting it go whenever she dug anything up.
And then yesterday morning, on my way to my studio with a cup of tea in my hand, I was caught by the sight of a single daffodil beginning to bloom in my garden. Raindrops from the icy rainstorm that blew through Laguna Beach glistened on the leaves. Not exactly a carpet of color. My victory garden.