SLUGS AND WHAT?
February's chill watched thru the window, as a mass of seedlings warmed themselves beneath indoor grow lights. Glancing around at each other, the seedlings might have wondered if there would be enough space for them all in the summer’s garden.
A good question, because there wouldn’t be.
When spring’s bird-song days arrived, I stuffed the seedlings cheek-to-cheek into their outdoor garden beds. Experts call this close cropping, but this was different for me. I was tired of being the good girl; I wanted to experiment. Besides, they looked sweet cuddling. That is, at first. Later, when full sized, their crowded leaves attracted slugs. Lots of slimy slugs.
And, I couldn’t be more pleased. That is to say, before slugs crashed my garden, I never knew the thrill of a wet t-shirt.
MISSING THE HAPPINESS OF A HAPPY MESS
See, my gardens used to follow a strict surgical orchestration. I would study seed packets, mince out seeds in tight rations, and carry a measuring tape to correctly space my plants. Barely any slugs slouched between the romaine leaves, but my seriousness squashed any splendor.
I wasn’t giving myself permission to mess around, which really was too bad because any kind of vibrancy requires even the slightest mess. I don't mean the kind of mess that happens because you didn't try; I mean the kind of mess that happens because you did try.
Try growing a full-fledged garden, and you learn that the perfect pics of Gardenista edit real life's mess out of the photo-shoots. The truth is an honest-to-goodness, uninhibited garden requires broken-in boots, bug bites, odd bruises, tattered gloves, muddied manicures, funky tan lines, tangled waterhoses, hungry voles, and a wheelbarrow filled with a day’s work of plucked fungous leaves, beetles and, yes, slugs.
And, why sit this out? To just sit? To not find out how fantastic a wet t-shirt is?
NO MESS ALLOWED
And, if growing a garden is messy, growing as a person is even messier. But, we edit this out as well.
If not in a garden with slugs, think back to childhood: Hoping to feel the fluff of a dog’s wagging tail, a wobbly toddler reaches out her arms and ventures toward the four-legged lab, only to falter and fall. Her knees, grass-stained. Her confidence, a bit muddied too.
Happily, for all of us, when we were toddlers, we weren’t yet self-conscious; so, we'd get back up and try to run after the puppy again. Eventually, we gained our balance well enough to not only run, but to skip, leap and feel the breeze of our momentum on our cheeks.
But, then later in life, we found out that adults only run at airport terminals. So, we stopped skipping and leaping altogether, for fear we might trip and get messy.
NOTHING MESSY. NOTHING NEW.
We weed out risk, which means we stop trying new things. We watch the same t.v., drive the same routes, say the same safe how-do-you-do’s, wear the same sensible shoes, and keep the same off-white on the walls. We definitely don’t say hi to a stranger or enroll in a beginner’s course of any sort. That could get dicey. Messy.
Here and there, just a little, what would it be like if we invited a bit of mess back into our lives? The slugs and I are talking about daring to deliberately get messy. That’s how we really grow, not by editing out risk.
ABOUT THAT WET T-SHIRT
My over-stuffed, slug-filled garden may masquerade as a sprawling mess but, on the contrary, it's brimming with invitations to feel alive and vibrant in its midst. I just have to climb over my inner negative chatter, to sense my surroundings. (Otherwise, aren't we just talking heads on sticks?) So, what I mean is to really…really…sense life with all its sound, touch, scent, taste and sensation.
In the moment of pulling slugs’ off the leaves, storm clouds thundered at the ridge line. Wind gusts warned me to collect my tools and head indoors, but the slugs were too many to ignore. So, I stayed put.
A hushed excitement ruffled me; thunder feels even more huge and hulking in one's bones when beneath its sky.
The rain line approached from across the hill, but only gradually, as if giving me a chance to rethink my choice. I studied it, ready. A few heavy drops of rain pelted my t-shirt. "Are you sure you don't want to go in?" it seemed to ask. I still stayed put. Then, with the rush of a waterfall, the storm clouds showered down on me. More quiet thunder, and I giggled.
MORE MESS, MORE VIBRANT
There, soaked in my garden clothes, I imagined running through sprinklers as a kid. Only in actuality, I never did. Sure, I'd hang around the sprinkler, pretending I was "all in" but I was really only just watching others have the fun. I was too afraid to make a mess of things, of getting into trouble.
Back then, a little garden slug would have done me an enormity of good. Maybe one or two slugs did try to get my attention: "Hey, Girl, get messy! See how alive life can be!"
A lot less calculation and a little more mess can do a girl a lot of good. Like, more moments of living so vibrantly alive. Like, a wet t-shirt with slugs.