What can I say? Ticks dig me. It’s been this way as long as I can remember. I suppose my story is a bit cliché, but I’ll let you be the judge.
I was discovered at the age of three in a little town called Hollywood. Yes, that Hollywood! Is there any other? California, you say? Huh! But I digress. I was in the yard, romping around the coconut palms and through the croton bushes when I was approached by an agent looking for new blood. I was sucked in by the idea that I had something special, something that set me apart from other people, something—dare I say it?—in the very life source that flowed through my veins.
Before I knew it, the bug had gotten under my skin. I was the host of the town— living large, the meals and drinks always on me. Soon, not only ticks but everyone wanted me. Sure, it was attractive at first; I felt needed, as if I truly had something to offer. Admirers swarmed around me everywhere I went. A buzz of excitement erupted whenever I stepped outside.
But over the years I discovered I couldn’t satisfy everyone. I took to staying indoors, covered up when I went out. Then the whining started. I couldn’t escape its insistent droning in my ears, reminding me always, always that I had to perform, had to give my followers what they wanted—the little parasites. I tried shooing them away, but it didn’t work. They only flew at me with greater force, poking and prodding. And then they started on my children. We couldn’t go to the playground, walk to school or plant a garden like other families. The pests were relentless; they were eating us alive. I even employed a SWAT team, but our protection was only hit-and-miss.
I was drained and had the scars to show it. I decided to quit. I dropped out of sight, and the clingers-on forgot about me. At least, I thought they did. Recently, I felt that old, familiar itch. I returned to my roots, plowing the fertile soil of my comeback and planting seeds I hope will flower and bear fruit. As I’ve toiled I’ve reflected on those long-ago days. Had they really been that bad? Hadn’t the wounds healed?
The answer has come swiftly. I’ve been back in the Lyme light for only a week and already the ticks are in my hair, clutching at my arms and legs, sucking up to me. In the intervening years, though, I’ve learned a few things, and this time I’m DEETermined to dump these ticks before they burrow too deep.
I never thought I’d be one of those people. You know, the ones who leave their outdoor Christmas decorations up all year round so that when you drive by you wonder with a shudder what it looks like on the inside: Are there elves on all the shelves? Is an avalanche of Saint Nicks standing in perpetual jollity around every corner? Do tinderbox trees bowed with dusty ornaments dominate each room?
But this year, I am chagrined to say, I have joined their ranks. My Christmas wreath still hangs on my front door, and festive candy canes, packages, and snowmen continue to cling to the sliding-glass back door. This deplorable state of affairs is not entirely my fault, but the result of several unforeseen circumstances colliding with a couple of Connecticut quirks.
First, Connecticut has an unofficially official wreath removal date of Valentine’s Day, when Cupid shoots arrows not of love but of intense cabin fever, which turns our thoughts toward spring with every tiny thaw. But this year the thaws never came. The chill of February turned into the frost of March, which became the pall of April. Heck, the trees never even sprouted leaves until the third week of May!
Second, no one in Connecticut uses their front door for anything but welcoming trick-or-treaters and—from late November to December 24—as a package drop. Even this last use is fading into oblivion as delivery people no longer have time for the long sprint from the driveway to the front door. Now, they carefully lean the package up against the garage door, where you are sure to…run over it when you back out of the garage. Seems a bit passive aggressive, no?
Since I’ve been preoccupied with other things lately, February then March then April came and went without my ever giving the front door a second thought. In fact, it was only a week or two ago that I walked through the foyer and saw a shadow darkening the frosted windows of our door. With a start of embarrassment, I realized this foreboding shape was not a salesman, a tract-carrying religious caller, a political canvasser, or even a cookie-selling girl scout, but my own bedraggled wreath.
Quickly, I swung the door opened and lifted my hand to unhook it. When I did, though, I brushed aside the still vibrant red bow and discovered:
So the wreath stays—even though it’s so brittle it might spontaneously burst into flame and its piney aroma is as concentrated as a room air freshener—until these little guys are out of the nest and on their own.
What about the clings on the back door?
If the door does not sport these Jello-like decorations, the starlings, preening and swooping through the air, knock themselves silly flying into what they perceive to be a safe haven or receptive friends—not unlike Kanye West imploding at the Grammy/Billboard Music/MTV Video Music/American Music Awards….This year, though, I missed buying the spring clings, so the holiday ones stay in place until the summer ones appear in the stores.
Maybe I have been neglectful this year, but to all those who judge, I say, “Bah Humbug!”
We’ve all seen them—those sad, dejected puppy and kitty eyes gazing out at us from our TVs or computer screens begging us to care. Even the forlorn bunnies and ferrets can melt the iciest of hearts. Well…maybe not the ferrets. And when we hear of a shelter animal being adopted into a loving family after a hard knock life, we get a warm, fuzzy feeling and even think about adopting one ourselves.
In that same spirit, today I’d like you to consider another group of forgotten creatures—rescue plants. You’ve no doubt seen them at nurseries and other stores and thought, “Yikes!”: the droopy tomato plants left over after the initial rush of gardeners; the bruised and blighted roses; the trailing ivies with brown, curling leaves tangled like kite strings; the hard-bitten cactus with nothing left to lose that pricks you as you walk by. These poor souls deserve better than to be relegated to the compost pile. They need our help.
That’s why I’ve made it my mission to embrace as many rescue plants as I can. I believe that given enough light, loam, and love, any plant, however scraggly, can be restored to its original majesty and bring delight to any home.
I’ve found most of my rescues at Stop & Shop, waiting with hopeful expectation right inside the entrance. Since I hate to see any living creature caged up, I’ve been instinctively drawn to the sad spectacle of shriveled leaves clinging to the cruel bars of a shopping cart, and once I’ve become emotionally attached, how can I abandon them?
I load them into the child seat of my cart, and they become my companions as I wait at the deli, pick up more macaroni and cheese (do people ever outgrow this delicacy?), hoof it to the far, far aisles for bread and milk, and trudge back to the front of the store for the garlic, cereal, honey, carrots…that I forgot the first time around (seriously, when did the grocery list become some kind of Mensa quiz?). By the time I finally exit the checkout lane and return to my car, these little guys have become my new best friends.
I’m proud to introduce a few of my new family members:
Buddy is one of the lucky ones. Won’t you join me to ensure no plant ever goes unloved again? Please open your heart and your window box, garden, desk, window sill, plant stand, or terrarium to a rescue plant. Remember: