I was told how to trap monkeys at a very early age. Not that we had many monkeys in Canada, but still, even then I knew it was an object lesson, and naturally I would be smarter than any monkey, wouldn’t I? Silly monkey!
Only I’m not, as it turns out, and I’ve had to learn the lesson about grabbing too much, over and over again. Take the empty nest, and getting ready for the family’s imminent return: typically we rush around cleaning, tidying, finessing, titivating, mowing, making beds; every aging couple with dispersed adult children will know the drill in their own house. This Easter break, we’d taken care of things, of course, to welcome the family home, but the outside, which is my job, had kind of fallen by the wayside.
Instead, I tried to think of jobs that the extended family could help with, of which one was planting out the potatoes! After the cold spell from the beginning of April onwards, we were beginning to wonder when it might be warm enough to plant the eager spuds out, and this weekend turned out brilliantly, didn’t it! Turns out, as well, that the grown-up boys were mad keen to help the old man on his gardening chores, and after we’d sorted out the logistics (laying out the chitting trays, sorting the best buds, cutting out the roundels on the black mulch where I’d daubed 24 rows of 10 each or 240 white marks earlier in the season, scooping out a little hole down to the manure-clay interface, inserting the chitted spud, covering it up with a nice little pat and finishing with a felt, rather than spoken prayer to the weather gods) we started.
The boys cut the holes and I planted the first 12 rows, but suddenly, with a snort of surprise, I agreed that I was exhausted already, so they took over on the planting too, and within moments, it seemed, the potatoes were in! Then they cleared out some pieces of wood that had been in the way for months, and fixed up the duck shelter, and took the little tractor on a Plough poo hoovering expedition, and had such fun while I rested. Oh, I forgot about the 50 willow whips we planted together down below the spring, which went in exactly as I’d supposed they would (slice the spade into the wet ground, push back, insert whip, squish closed with your boot) only it was just me supervising and exclaiming as the new willow glade took shape.
The same thing had happened on Barbecue Saturday, as I sat and drank chilled white wine while the cooking, eating, conversation, chimenea tending and then the washing-up, all swirled around me. Ordinarily I’d be in the thick of it, desperate to make sure everything was working well, but this time it was better just to sit, watch, engage when feasible. It was lovely, really, and I thought, silly monkey: if you try to grab too much, you lose so much more!