Filling Your Niche


I decided to take my frustrations out on the little side-yard out back of our bedroom door. It’s a disaster; it’s been overrun by weeds and thigh-high Bermuda grass. With both beyond the mower’s capacity to tame at this point, I scrounged up my gardening gloves and hand shears, popped in some ass-kickin’ music, and hunkered in for the weekend.

Hacking out unwanted growth is fantastically cathartic. My aggravation eased up with every yanked root.  Within an hour, I was happy in my productive solitude, unearthing various “yard treasure” (as Dan calls it):  a tiny green army man, bayonet shouldered and ready for action;  a green marble;  a core drill bit. I also found some near-smothered vines with pretty white flowers star jasmine, I think… they’d poked through their way through fence slats from our neighbors’. I gently disentangled them from the barbed Bermuda grass runners and re-wrapped them around the safety of the fence post.

Then I smelled nostalgia, and paused.  Mint?

Mint runs wild across the beach in front of the Minnesota cabins where I spent my summers growing up. The smell of fresh spearmint will forever be tied to bare feet and beach walks and artesian well water. There were only two rules in summer: Don’t yell “Help!” when you’re swimming unless you actually need help. And no wearing bathing suits at the table.

When we bought our current house, I was happy to find our neighbors had mint growing up by the sidewalk. I break off a leaf whenever I walk by; some of it must’ve migrated.  I hunted in the tangle in front of me, and yes, there it was: a defiant little patch of mint.  I freed it from the oppressive overgrowth and thought for a minute, looking again at the fencepost, with its curling vines and fragrant mint.

I’d planned on just lining the whole thing with pavers and maybe setting some planters out here and there. The mint changed my mind. This funny little back side-yard needs to be a garden, a real garden, overrun with trailing growth and moss-edged flagstones. There’s just enough shade back here for plants to survive the oppressive desert summers. Daisies, lavender, maybe a little fountain. Enough room for an Adirondack chair just there, in the corner.

I’ve been feeling a little strangled in overgrowth and choked out by runners myself these days.  But if the mint can find its way in all this tangle, surely I can find my way too.

Maarit • 04/19/2010

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