The garden was horribly overgrown. The past three days of rain seemed to multiply the weeds and transform them into a modern day jungle. Thorns and spikes poked at my fingertips. I rubbed the dirt from my palms briskly and went to pull out a few more barbs. I kept reminding myself that gardening was relaxing and good for my mental health. After all the years I'd spent hunched over the soil on evenings and weekends, I knew it was true.
The sun lulled me into a relaxed frame of mind and I loved seeing the new flowers and vegetables bloom and mature. There was something Zen about a good patch of soil and time.
I washed the dirt off my hands at the faucet and went into the garage, picking up a new pair of work gloves. The old ones were tossed into the washing machine with the dirty towels I had yet to run. The weeds weren't going to pull themselves; I headed back into the backyard. The vegetable garden was still somewhat shaded by the shadow line of the fence so I had to hurry to avoid cooking my skin during the day.
The hummingbirds fled from the small flowers on my basil plant as I approached the bed. I got back on my knees and felt the creak of my age in my joints. Shaking my head I returned to tugging the wayward plants from the ground. One person's weeds could be another's garden, I thought while removing dandelions slowly.
A crow called down to me while I worked out another handful of green and yellow. The complaints were ignored as crows didn't tend to listen to me anymore than they did my neighbors. And since the crows weren't using my car or house for target practice I wasn't going to make any trouble. I was amazed the first time I watched a crow throw its body at the side of Suzie's red Corolla. When the birds grew fascinated by a shiny surface they attacked it with a vigor that was odd and very noisy. Content to continue pulling the weeds I tossed another handful into my small blue barrel for green waste. The new gloves were thicker and I didn't feel any nasty little pokes and jabs from the plant. Smiling I kept pulling and prodding the earth to yield up the unwanted plants.
One of my neighbors walked down the hill next to the yard and called out to me.
"Wow, that looks like a chore," Lizzy commented while stretching. She was trying to get in shape for a marathon, I'd heard, but I wasn't sure two weeks of walking around the street and chatting was much in the way of training. She pulled out her water bottle and tipped it back, noisily slurping. She strapped it back on her waist band and removed a small package of trail mix. Chewing and smacking her lips she wandered into my yard unasked. Lizzy was in her usual nosey form and ready to intrude. Sighing, I sat back on my heels and tried to look like I even cared what she thought.
"Sure is," I pulled another clump up and she wandered closer.
"Why don't you hire someone? I'm sure you could afford it." She looked around my backyard with a shrewd eye and I could see her mentally tallying the cost of everything.
"I like yard work." I smiled briefly and tossed a thick handful of dandelions and ragweed into the barrel.
She edged in and began looking at my plants.
"What's that there?" Lizzy pointed to a rather large sunflower.
I resisted rolling my eyes and said, "A mammoth sunflower, as are the rest along that line. The ones to the right are hybrids and will be half as tall." The faces were already showing so I didn't know why she'd asked me what they were. How could a grown adult not know what a sunflower looked like?
"I didn't know they grew here. You sure it's a sunflower?" She poked her face closer to the honey yellow center. I watched as a bee flew right past her left eye and honed in on the flower. She shrieked and began wheeling her arms around. Four or five other bees that were drowsy with nectar buzzed near her causing her to begin to shrill out an even nastier sound.
"Spray them or something! Get them away from me!" Her screaming caused the crow to fly down from its perch in the pine tree and caw in an angry tirade. The bees continued to fly back and forth past Lizzy. Her hands had yet to strike one but they were beginning to be disturbed by the motions.
"Lizzy, stop flapping your arms already! The bees see that as aggression and want to defend their territory. Calm down." I watched as she continued to scream and flap. I could feel her hysteria rising. The bees did too. That wasn't good.
I got up from the ground, my knees popping with age and pulled her bodily away from the pathway of the bees. She struck me on the forearm with her flailing and I resisted punching her lights out. I tugged her further out of the garden and into the front yard. She sobbed, "Those were those Africanizer Killer bees!!! Why are you growing flowers to feed them?"
"No, Lizzy, they are just normal honeybees. You were in the middle of their flight pattern to the flower." I watched the bees continue dashing in and out of the flower faces while the sun crept ever so quickly into my yard. She flopped on the ground and began dusting at her clothes saying, "The bees are on me."
I watched a trickle of sweat work its way down her forehead and she yelled, "There's one on my face!"
Sighing, I looked back to the garden and wondered if I'd ever get the weeds pulled, "No, Lizzy, that's sweat. Let's get you home." I pulled her from the ground, a large human weed in my yard, and walked her to her house.