Within 72 hours or so of posting about gardening as a spiritual practice, I learned that gardening is also a practice in acceptance when Eric commented “Someone has been eating our hostas.”
Sure enough, a young female deer had foraged through the garden bed closest to the house and did serious damage to the once large hosta plants. I thought of my friend Carol who recently moved into a house that is much closer to wildlife. Carol commented (to paraphrase) what is it about deer? Do they pick and choose what they eat? Do they skip a plant because they’re full? I mean, they eat a little here, a little there, don’t touch that plant over there.
Such is the irony of deer and so it was with our hostas. This deer de-nuded a couple hostas and left some leaves attached to others. My first reaction was “hummph” and I silently berated myself for not spraying the deer repellent on the hostas.
The next evening Pippin spotted our now named “Lady Hosta” deer. Again she was munching the hosta. I banged on the window, which got her attention and caused her to look at me quizzically. So there we were, me in the house telling Lady Hosta through the window glass that I did not appreciate her eating my hosta and that I’d like her to leave the garden, and Lady Hosta staring at me with those doe eyes glancing at the nearby sedums with their newly formed buds, and looking like she wasn’t quite sure which way to move.
A few more pounds on the window and the front door and Lady Hosta took the hint and off she ran through the front yard into the woods.
This is not our first encounter with the neighborhood deer. We’ve been acquainted with them for several seasons, throughout the year. I think I’ve counted up to six at one time in various positions around the house. Usually we have mom and the yearlings. Once I kept Eric from leaving the house because mom and baby were wandering through a large bed at the end of our property. The fawn was nosing and nibbling through the bed and mom was standing guard. It was too precious of a scene to disturb.
Another time mom and a couple kids were sauntering through the yard. The young male decided to inspect the vinca near the house. I happened to look out the family room window and there was the little guy. I must’ve said something that attracted his attention because his head popped up from the plants. It was then that I noticed his tiny antler buds and said “Oh you’ve got little antlers” while raising my hands to my head (imitating the antlers). The hand movements must’ve scared him because he bolted straight out of the garden bed. Or he was completely insulted by my antler imitation and he ran to his mom to tell her of the strange human on the other side of the glass.
We knew that once we planted our gardens we were likely to attract wildlife. In some ways that was our intent. We wanted the bumble bees, the hummingbirds, and the dragonflies, the goldfinches and robins and butterflies. Eventually the call must’ve gone out; “these guys have a salad bar here and it is open 24/7.”
I love my garden and I love the animals it attracts, the birds, the deer, the rabbits, the chipmunks and snakes, and mice, and insects. I’m not always happy with the damage that they inflict and it is up to me to put down the preventatives or put up a barrier or put out a trap or to surround those plants the deer like with plants that are less to their liking. Sometimes I’m lazy about it and don’t act until after-the-fact.
Some people I know get angry about the deer and other wildlife. Personally, I don’t think that accomplishes very much. After all, we’re the ones who have moved into their neighborhoods here in the rural areas and countryside. I believe accepting that this is their habitat and living in co-existence is a better approach; at least that works for me.
For me gardening is not just a spiritual practice reinforcing our connection to the earth, it is teaching me acceptance as well.
On Friday, 6/20, NPR’s On Point with Tom Ashbrook had a wonderful interview with author and professor Robert Pogue Harrison on The Gardening Art, a history of our love affair with gardening. Read more about it and listen here