West Side Garden Story

I was hacking my way through the jungle of my perennial garden when I saw a horrifying thing. On the path below me,  a horde of ants was attacking a worm, rolling it over and over, and biting it as it wriggled frantically. I ran for the garden hose to gently wash the ants away and found myself singing along with a song from the musical, West Side Story. The New York 1960’s gang, the Jets, were attacking a lone Shark who’d wandered through their territory.

Was it my imagination that the ants were snapping their fingers? Do they even have fingers? Probably not, but there was some serious dancing going on, especially when I turned on the hose. The worm (ahem, the Shark) managed to escape down a crack in the dirt, and the disappointed Jets headed for home, once they’d dried off.

Next, I shoveled up their ant hill. The little buggers had been stealing the dirt from between my bricks, and I was tired of fighting them. Crossing the road, my wheelbarrow loaded with an entire ant kingdom, I realized I was the bad guy. Like the aliens in War of the Worlds and Lord Voldemort in Harry Potter, I’d brought the dystopian reality of a world gone bad into the ant’s lives. I pictured them wringing their hands (do they have hands?) and weeping about the loss of their home. Honestly, gardening is difficult enough without all this guilt.

What with the singing and gang warfare, it’s hard to know where to start. The clover in the grass is a pain, but there’s a monster sized version lurking in the taller shrubs that’s so much worse.  I think my perennials are in partnership with many of the weeds, hiding them beneath their broad leaves. Tiny dandelion plants, little bits of chickweed. It’s like Romeo and Juliet out there. (The old version of West Side Story.) When I pull a weed up, the perennials seem to cry out in despair. I’m sure I heard one quoting Shakespeare.

“I defy you, stars!”

There might have been a song in there, too.  It’s our Community Choir’s set designer, Ken Pawlachuk’s, fault. He brought the lovely pier from the Mamma Mia musical into my front yard and now, everyone’s a diva. Even the hostas, and they’re usually so sensible.

So, if you see me at the store laughing maniacally in true bad guy style, realize that I’ve just decimated a whole village of ants and uprooted a few hundred weeds. They’re all busy singing ‘One More Day’ (from Les Miserable) while I’m trying to harden my heart. Sure, I’m not using pesticides anymore, but I’m still spraying the weeds with vinegar, baking soda and salt. I’m dousing them with boiling water. It’s just a different kind of torture. But that’s the way we are, us villains. It’s all about our tidy yards and the money we shelled out during the frenzy of spring plant buying.

‘It’s for your own good!’ I shout at the perennials. ‘Stop singing!’ I holler at the weeds. They barely listen anymore.
One more day, indeed. (Here’s the video, a human version. The plants haven’t quite nailed it yet.)

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