Opinion » Maxed Out

Maxed out

At one with the earth



By G.D. Maxwell

There are at least two fundamental problems with gardening. The first is, it’s an obscene amount of work, way more sweat and toil than anything generally referred to as a pastime or hobby has a right to be.

The second problem is almost a punchline. After having expended enough labour to build a small house, suffered enough cuts and scrapes to make people wonder whether you might not be hurting yourself intentionally in some bizarre cry for help, scrubbed enough dirt from under your nails to fill another raised bed – no, not another bed; make it go away mommy – gotten sunburned, bugstung, heatstroked and paranoid over whether the damn thing would grow, after all that and more, you might end up with a bountiful harvest. Just when onions are 29 cents a pound down at the Bag ’n’ Save and all your neighbours are trying to give away the same stuff you’re trying to eat before it goes bad.


I am, however, a reluctant gardener. Undoubtedly several more years of intense therapy might shed some light on why but it would probably take more years than I have left to actually effect a cure.

There are, as I write, neat rows of green and purple and chartreuse stuff growing out of rich, black dirt outside my window. There is an island of rhubarb the size of a small car, a phalanx of peas about to grow up – and quite possibly pull down – their chickenwire trellis, a forest of raspberry canes growing shaggy with leaves, onions, strawberries, potatoes, tomatoes, leeks and beans progressing toward delight or disappointment. And a gang of thuglike crows just biding their time in the compost bin, waiting for something better, fresher, more tender to pillage.

Disaster lurks around every corner.

Gardening is dangerous. In my life, I’ve played competitive sports, ridden and fallen off motorcycles, climbed sheer rock faces, protested in the faces of dimwitted, heavily-armed police I was royally pissing off, driven way too fast on twisty roads and way too slow on Toronto’s 401 at rush hour, eaten midway food at the PNE, and told Chris Kent I thought ski racing was a stupid waste of time. The only time I’ve ever undergone "emergency" surgery involved a gardening accident. I kid you not.

Consider that in a recent survey, 40 per cent of US doctors admitted to gardening. You may think this is a pretty impressive number; I think it’s so small because they know how dangerous gardening can be. Almost 40 per cent of them admit to still smoking for chrissakes. And it pales in comparison to the 100 per cent of B.C. docs who think Gordon Campbell’s scorched-earth Medicare policies are the work of a man sorely in need of a brain transplant.

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