The Pea Patch Fight

What a summer. First New York and then an unexpected 6 weeks in Providence, and now this-- a week in San Francisco. I've barely spent a minute on my island, and believe me, my Peapatch Garden neighbors have noticed.

Most of the tenants of the communal garden are amazing and nice people. I've met some real friends there. The woman who runs the Senior Center. The woman who just retired as head librarian. But I also have an enemy in the Patch: the self-appointed duenna of the garden. Long retired from who-knows-what, white polo shirt and big fuschia walking shorts, helmet hair and a deep, abiding belief in herself and her views of Right and Wrong. Wouldn't you know it. Of all the plots in the garden, she has the plot right by mine.

When I started the garden with friend Janet, she made clear her doubts about our fitness for the job, and harrumphed contentedly when Janet had to quit because of her back. After the former beau showed up at the plot a few months later, she put two-and-two together and hailed me with, "Are you married, yet?" for the next four years. Though my dog Jane died 3 years ago, she always asks me where my dog is.

For nine years she has been dissatisfied with my garden performance and for nine years has shown this disapproval through throat-clearing, mutterings and behind-back campaigns. She snorted for a month when my zucchini went wild by accident through an unfortunate miscalculation in the use of organic fertilizer. She rolled her eyes to all when I rescued a bird feeder from a house that was being demolished and stuck it in the middle of my patch. She believes that all bugs, slugs and varmints originate and procreate in my plot, and she recently called the Garden Authority to tell them that grass seed was blowing from my plot to hers and that it had to be put to a stop to immediately.

Every year she tries to convince the Authority that I have abandoned my plot. Every year they tell her I am still there, blowsy, illegitimate garden that it is, filled with tangled morrocan mints and lemon balms and fennels.

Whenever I come in for a quick blitz with shears and trowel, she is there, running down the errant leaf of grass, harrumphing.

Her small and obedient husband edges her garden with his gas-powered edger. He's edged it so many times that it has sunk a few inches below sod-level. My garden has never been edged. Every once in a while the former beau would help me garden by donning a fraying straw hat and over-alls and standing in the plot talking in a New Hampshire accent about non-existent cows while I loaded him with weeds. Rounded and honed as this character was, it was not a hit with the Garden Duenna.

Her plants--small, wary zinnias and strawberries-- stand in perfect rows. My peonies explode out of the plot every spring. My daisies take over every August. Her fencing has hospital corners: My fencing looks like deer have lunged against it.

But after nine years, the Duenna is going to win the Pea Patch fight. She doesn't know it yet. I haven't mentioned it. But my life has gotten so involved now that even I realize I do not have time for a garden. This Fall, my peonies will be transplanted, my lavender will find a new home, my fruit trees will be removed, and my beautifully enriched soil will be covered with a perfect oblong of plastic, awaiting a fresh tenant. The harrumphs will take on a warm tone, order will prevail, and peace will be restored to the Pea Patch.