Friday, October 19, 2007

LIFE AT SEASONALITY, Or "Are We Having Fun Yet?" (7/05)

Growing up in Dallas, I was deathly afraid of most everything out of doors. I remember at one point, wishing that we could just pour concrete everywhere, so there would be no more bugs, snakes or poison ivy left to worry about. Eventually, when I had my mid-life transformation and fell madly in love with gardening, I overcame most of those fears, and managed to find a healthy balance between curiosity and self-preservation. For example, when I first saw the throbbing masses of Daddy-Long-Legs spiders that like to congregate in the corners of our porch here in Wimberley, and who have the unnerving habit of doing synchronized, pulsating push-ups whenever humans are near, I found them rather unsettling. However, our friend Tim explained to me that although they have a deadly venom, their mouths are so tiny they are incapable of biting you, and they eat lots of mosquitoes. Now, my buddy Tim is notorious for his hatred of spiders, so if he doesn't mind these, then I can live with them too (although I'm ever watchful for ones with overly large mouths). The same is true for the occasional bat seen lurking up in the eaves. As long as he doesn't try to dive-bomb my Big Texas Hair, I can live with him. But when I came out one morning and found a huge, hairy black spider the size of my fist, I didn't bother to get a closer look to see what kind it was - I just got-the-hell-out-of-Dodge! You see, I have a healthy balance between curiosity and self-preservation.

I sometimes wonder if men aren't genetically deficient when it comes to this trait. Maybe, when God was creating our genetic code, he thought to himself "Well, I only have so much room on this thing. If I'm going to give the males an extra super-duper urge to go out and multiply, I'll have to delete something else. I suppose I can take away some of their common sense, and give it to the females instead. That way, the women will have enough for both of them."

I first started wondering about this dilemma when I heard the story of the ancient countries that had been at war for generations. One day the women on both sides were finally fed up with the situation, and agreed to meet and discuss their options. They made a pact to refuse to have sex with any of the men, as long as the fighting continued. Voila! The war ended.

My doubts were further strengthened when I first saw one of the Darwin Awards books, and realized that the male idiots out-numbered the females about ten to one. My theory was clinched after hearing the stories my husband and his buddies would swap concerning their high school escapades. I mean, who else but a teen-aged boy would run around naked on the roof of the school on Easter Sunday? My daughter has always been rather mature for her age, and had very little patience for the antics of teen boys she knew. One evening at dinner, she was complaining about some who were bragging about getting naked on the roof of the school over the weekend. First my husband's face turned blood red, then we made the mistake of making eye contact, and both burst out in guffaws, spewing food across the table. Alexis just stared in horror, then said slowly, in a voice dripping with disgust "Oh-God-Please-No!" When asked what on earth possessed him to do such an idiotic thing, John replied with a perfectly dead-pan expression "Not much else to do in Odessa on Easter Sunday."

When our friends Mark and Ann, who have lived in the Hill Country for years, first came to visit us at Seasonality, they had lots of good tips to share with us. OK, I could have done without the snake stories, but being a woman with common sense, I just made some adjustments to how I was planning my garden. Originally, I was going to have large island beds packed full with perennials and ornamental grasses. Trouble with that is, they would be perfect hiding places for who knows what, and I would have to be poking my hands into them all the time, in order to trim the perennials. My revised plans are for a xeriscape garden using lots of sculptural plants, with plenty of space between them for me to see where my hands are going!

My husband had a different reaction to their advice. When we were showing them around the property, they pointed to some Salt Cedar plants and said "You'll want to get rid of those. They're pretty invasive." The next day, he went out during the hottest part of the day, and started yanking clumps out with his bare hands. Of course, he was sweating like a pig, so he then used those same hands to wipe the sweat out of his eyes. Not long after that, he came into the house complaining that his eyes were starting to burn and water. He took one of his allergy pills, but that didn't help at all, and things went from bad to worse. I took him into town to see the pharmacist, who recommended Benedryl and eye drops. He barely made it through dinner, then said his eyes felt like they were on fire, and he didn't think he could take it much longer. I decided I'd better haul him to the emergency room over in San Marcos, and luckily, they were able to give him some drops to deaden the pain, until the reaction eventually died away.

The next weekend, my common sense approach actually did more harm than good. We were expecting house guests momentarily, when John decided to take his new mucho-macho-weed-whacker out to play, and started chopping down all the tall grasses up close to the house, again in the hottest part of the day. Since my John is a real-men-don't-wear-goggles kind of guy, I wasn't too surprised when he came back in dripping blood a short while later. Apparently, the weed-eater had caused something to fly up and nick the inside edge of his nose. Unfortunately, he's also a cardiovascular disease, blood-thinner taking kind of guy, and when the bleeding still hadn't stopped a half hour later, I started trying every old fashioned remedy I could think of. I made him stick his head down between his knees, had him squeeze his nose shut, and even dropped ice-cold car keys down the back of his shirt. When nothing worked, I called our friendly pharmacist again, and she told me to stuff his nose with cotton and apply ice. Still no luck. Finally I gave my daughter the choice of staying home to entertain our guests when they arrived, or taking John back to the emergency room. She chose to make the ER run. I stood watching them drive down the hill, and just as they reached the main road, she suddenly stopped. I feared that John had started to hemorrhage or had passed out, but the car turned around and made its way back up the hill. Apparently, once John was able to stand up and take his head out from between his knees, the bleeding stopped.

The next day, when we were regaling our guests with this story, they said "Cold keys? Where on earth did you ever get that idea?" Actually, I saw someone do it to my sister Carolyn one time, and it worked like a charm, but as I was recalling this, it suddenly occurred to me that perhaps it wasn't for a nose-bleed. Maybe it was for the hiccups. An interesting aside to this story is that by cutting down the grasses around our house, John instigated a massive invasion of scorpions over the next few days. I doubt seriously if those particular house-guests will be back to see us any time soon.

Did I mention the time that I caught him using a big propane blow torch to kill weeds on our property? Luckily, there had been a lot of rain recently, so he didn't burn the entire place down. Unfortunately, once again he wasn't wearing gloves, and the handles of the torch got so cold, they actually burned huge blisters on his palms. I just pray that he doesn't end up as an entry in the next edition of The Darwin Awards.

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