Revenge of the Gourds

July 1, 2009

Revenge of the Gourds

My hands are the kiss of death.  If you happen to have chlorophyll running through your veins and you see me looking your way, head for the hills.  I’m all black thumb and I’m willing to admit it.  Ask my lawn.  Ask the empty flowerbeds screaming for life.  To be honest, I’ve probably built up a pretty good layer of mulch and compost from all the plants, bushes, and flowers that have withered and died in our one-third acre of horror.  

I can sing.  I can play the guitar, write a decent song, and I’ll square off at twenty paces in an interpreting duel any time.  I love all plants and flowers.  So why has it come down to my guilt-ridden mass murdering of all things growing every spring and summer?

But still, I persevere.  My mother is a renowned gardener, having been featured in Better Homes and Gardens for her natural prairie plant gardens and living labyrinth.  My sister can make anything grow from the tiniest of cuttings and in less than a month it’ll be full of foliage and fruit.  That might be a slight exaggeration, but they’re both definitely in the green thumb club.  I have their genes.  I’m a good person.  Shouldn’t that be enough?

You and I both know it isn’t.  As my friend Audrey reminded me when I was mourning the most recent flats of impatiens I had massacred, it takes time.  It takes hard work.  I’ll give on that.  I’m impatient with impatiens, and every other type of plant.  I want the flowers, and I want them now!  But there’s something else.  There seems to be some sort of mysterious communion between seed, hand, water and dirt that I’ve not been made privy to.  

Enter my seven year-old daughter, YuYu.  She’s like me.  She loves plants, but she doesn’t really want to work at it.  Why should she?  She’s seven. She’s never seen all the work that goes into her Nana’s garden or Aunt Sara’s back yard.  She just sees the results and knows she likes it.  Fine and dandy.  Kindred spirit, we two.  

Early this spring, she found an old gourd leftover from Halloween decorations.  How I’d missed it, I don’t know.  I haven’t a clue what kind of gourd it was, just that it was old, withered and sounding like a great maraca.  YuYu decided to crack it open and look at the seeds.  Seven year-old curiosity strikes again. 

She set her sights on our front yard flowerbed.  Barren except for the stalks of tulip plants whose flowers are yearly devoured by whichever nocturnal animal passes by, she dug a tiny hole and threw in a handful of seeds.  Sweet innocence.  I tried to prepare her for the fact that they would not grow.  Squirrels, deer, birds, rabbits or raccoons, all who live in the general vicinity of our front yard, would get at them as soon as we turned our back.  The sun would dry them out.  The cold snaps and snow that hit in April would destroy them.  No rain, too much rain, we didn’t tend them enough.  Maybe I laid it on a bit thick, but I wanted to prepare her for disappointment.  

About a month ago, the yard decided to get back at me.  The gourds started to grow.  One tiny plant at first, then more and more.  It looks as if all the seeds have sprouted and have taken over a part of our yard.  They’ve grown out of the flowerbed and are now creeping across the lawn.  They’re growing higher, and longer and bigger than anything I’ve ever planted in my life.  And they’re laughing at me.  Every tendril that snakes out seems to be wagging its finger, or stem, at me saying “nyah, nyah – even a seven-year-old can do it!”  

Tonight, as I was out watering this behemoth of vegetables, I started to hear something else.  Not a laughing at me (well, maybe just a snicker), but a rejoicing that someone else just may have stumbled upon that mystery, that communion, between earth, plant and human.   This plant, lifting its leaves to the heavens that, once again, in a new generation, there’s someone with that special spark of magic and caring that can bring forth new life from the earth. 

Now, as I figure out how to let this thing grow without losing half the lawn, I can look at my daughter as having blessed the gourds, and having been blessed by them in return.

So, what does one do with a yard full of gourds?

Contact:  © Amy Dixon-Kolar 2023