July 22, 2010

You Know Where You Are?

It is always humbling to learn a series of successive lesson one after another. This morning as my younger daughter slept, I thought I would take Kaia out into our backyard and begin some work I have wanted to do in our yard. You see, the space itself is a decent size and with some hard work and determination, I am under the impression that I can turn it into some kind of tranquil Zen vegetable garden, flower patch, and statue plot.

Although I am not at all handy or have any idea how to do any of the things I have planned, I want to plant some vegetables (despite the torrential downpours I have seen in the last few days), plant flowers around the edges, lay down stone pathways that lead to Buddha head statues I will buy in Bali, and build a small deck for table and chairs, oh and of course rid the whole area of the swarms of mosquitoes that seem to control the space.

Like Nathan Price the evangelical Baptist minister and a WWII veteran from Georgia, determined to save Africa for Jesus in Barbara Kingsolver’s classic The Poisonwood Bible, I must be mad. Today was round one and I took a beating.

Kaia lasted about two minutes before a mosquito bite on her leg swelled up to the size of a peach, and the scab on her calf from a previous bite was nicked by her shovel causing her to bleed openly, announcing an all you can eat buffet for the mozzies with out the need to even puncture skin. I sent her inside immediately and felt I could get it all done in a matter of minutes. Here is where the lessons start rolling in:
  1. Do not take a four year old out into a tropical garden without repellent and proper clothes.
  2. Never underestimate the earth and the amount of painful plants and insects she can unleash on you at any given time.
  3. Do not try to rush through a weeding job when dealing with tropical weeds that have most likely been around since the Jurassic period and are barbed with razor sharp thorns.
Are you getting the idea? It was hot. I was sweating, inching, and in pain. I was overwhelmed by a patch of earth that measures about five-by-five feet. Kaia sat behind the window looking longingly at about the time Skyelar woke and started to cry. I had half the bushes pulled out when I heard her. I could not stop now. I still had to move the debris to the front of the house.

I will spare you the comedy of errors that occurred from this moment in the story and finally getting the kids to stop crying, the house swept up, and everything back to normal before Mairin go t home. Long story short, since this will most likely be the first of many debacles and subsequent stories about this process, I made a dent in the brush. I will give round one to the jungle, but I made small progress and learned a few things on the way. Next time, I will come out swinging. I need a pair of gloves, some leisure time, and my wife at home to watch Skyelar as Kaia and I make our way back out into the jungle. Here are some pictures of what we accomplished.

This first one is the area I am working on at the moment. I want to clear the shrubs under the Pine and Mango trees clearing some space for flowers or more organized tropical plants, some bamboo might be nice.

This beautiful large yet annoyingly obtrusive Frangipani must go. That rectangular plot is where I want to plant the veggies. If I can ever figure out how to protect the seedlings from the rain. Any ideas would be appreciated in the comment section. Below you will find what I tackled today.

Not bad, I got most of it, but more importantly I got a good look at my opponent and learned that she is one tough bitch. Playing with mother earth here in Jakarta is a whole new game with new rules that I have yet to learn. This is no lazy Sunday afternoon in the garden. This is a battle. I will not get all biblical and starting using words like dominion and subdue, but I will also not be pushed around. I need to find a Tai Chi style "work-with-the-forces-of-the-universe" to be at one with this space. My garden.

Slow and steady we go...Jungle= 1 me= 0

You can follow all of the pictures in my Flickr set called Garden.


  1. It is an amusing story and you sound disgruntled to the point of being comical! :) But hey! You started the work and I am sure when you'll get all the right equipment for the job it will be a breeze. To me, the most important factor in your attempt was the absence of your wife :) Things always tend to work better when wives are around, dont you think? :)

  2. Never underestimate the earth. I like that advice. I've never seen that concept put so succinctly.