For the Want of a Scythe

It would be fair to say that the thought ‘I’d be better off with a scythe now‘ is not one that frequently crosses my mind.  In fact last week was most likely the first time it had ever occurred.  I was bent over, hands swathed in someone else’s thick gardening gloves, long sleeves protecting my arms, my walking boots and woolly socks, despite the near tropical temperature, trying to clear an over grown bed with the aid of some shears, a rake and a fistful of empty compost bags for the rubbish.

As soon as the idea of a scythe popped into my head, so followed the image of cut hands and legs, protective clothing notwithstanding, as I’m realistic enough to know that the instrument would be more of a risk to my well-being than to the overgrown weeds and grass I was attacking.

But the head of the reluctant gardener is filled with a cascade of images and echoes, at least this one’s is; it’s the only way to keep working at the task in hand, as otherwise the lure of sitting on the back step with a cup of coffee would be too great.  I had also reminded myself of the summer after my school friend Linda and I had first read Anna Karenina.  So struck was Linda by the descriptions of Levin finding his feeling of true home and spiritual satisfaction by working alongside the serfs on his estate cutting the crops for the harvest, that she went and got a job working on a farm over the summer holidays.

I was a reluctant gardener even then, often pressed into service mowing the lawns at home, so the idea of being involved in something that was like that, but more so, didn’t appeal to me much.  It did leave me, however, with a lingering feeling that somehow my imagination or interpretative sensibility had been found wanting: I had not been inspired to seek farm work by the romance of the novel we’d read, while, my friend, with her greater sensitivity had found true inspiration in the pages of the book.

I got a job in an office, working in an accounts payable department for the holidays.

When I asked Linda what it had been like working on the farm, had she felt that bond of kinship with her fellow workers?  Had she felt at peace with the world and granted new insights into the human condition?

She shook her head.

‘No.  It was just knackering.’

I had promised myself that I would only do an hour or so clearing the overgrown bed, but I wanted the work I’d done to be noticeable, so I tidied around the edges first, hacking, pulling and stuffing the weeds into the plastic sacks.  Out of the corner of my eye I saw a stone move.  Closer inspection revealed it to be a small brown frog about the size of my thumb.  I don’t know where it can have come from as there are no ponds anywhere nearby.

I put the shears to one side; the idea of accidentally chopping a tiny frog in two quite put me off.  I let the one I’d unearthed pretend to be a stone beside the path for a while.  When I went back, I couldn’t see him, so I don’t know if he escaped or if he got swept up into the bags I took to the tip.  The mystery of where he came from remains: can a frog live without a pond?

He was probably lucky I didn’t have a scythe.

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2 Comments

  1. Sorry, Rowena, but I’m horrified at the thought of all that lovely grass and weeds going to the tip. Haven’t you got a compost heap?

    Reply
    • Ha! There are 2 compost bins but they are already full with grass cuttings and kitchen waste, so big rubbish goes to the tip. (It’s not my garden and I follow instructions!)

      Reply

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