Among our shining domestic moments in home improvement was when we had the local plant place plant our back yard in, not surprisingly, plants. Those plants, combined with a lovely tree and a lovely bench which a neighbor gave us, make our back yard a thing of beauty and a joy forever. Songbirds gather at our feeder. Our dog Bea even rousted a family of rodents from our carpet of yellow flowers, as to which the forces of environmental purity ("'s long as they're not in the house, leave 'em be", I say) and the forces of post-modern compromise ("our neighbor has a great stuff for rats that one hangs too high to affect dogs", said force insists) are involved in a cosmic tussle similar to ragnarok, armageddon or three games by the University of Arkansas club sports rugby teams, circa 1978, which did a weekly disjoint of a classmate's nose with a pleasaing melodramatic regularity.
Things now happen in our back yard that never happened when our vegetation was limited to grass pretending to be from Bermuda but actually hailing from lawns which shamefully replaced prairie.
Let's take sunflowers. I don't mean the Texas wildflower "coreopsis", which people here call a sunflower. I mean honest to sun-ness sunflowers, the kind from Florida that Anita Bryant no doubt grew, in between swigs of Minute Maid and shameful homophobia.
If you are like me, and, believe me, you are by definition way cooler than me, then you know the tragedy and pain of sunflowers. They germinate in ten seconds, with all the rapidity of a sander on a gym floor. They sprout to two feet, like towers of babel or bean stalks to giantland. They then withstand all tending and care, and either wilt or drown, three feet tall and bloom-less, after four weeks or so. In their tended state, they are less "sunflowers" than "stemflowers", and, sadly, the tide stems easily. No wonder that fellow was just mad about Saffron (and this was before Saffron Burrows was and then was not a beauty). Saffron seed never let one down the way sunflower seeds did. Besides, they say cardinals love them, although I never knew a cardinal who could twig (or tweet) me yea or nay.
It's like some cosmic rule. Let's call it the Arkansas Garden Rule. It goes like this:
1. Mustard greens--amazing things, will germinate, sprout, and be on your table within a month, and the sharpness will make you give up cheeses and turn into a vegan green party voter.
2. Black-eyed peas--they come in pods, and they make you hiss, but there the alien resemblance ends, because you're hissing with delight at what you garden.
3. Corn--it looks good, but it's fifty fifty whether one is growing corn on the cob or merely sunscorched leaves.
4. Sunflower seeds--face it, mister, it ain't nothin' personal, but somebody's gotta cry and some sunflowers gotta die.
But miracles happen, just like that Miracle of the Bells movie in which Fred MacMurray gets a bunch of bells ringing because this gorgeous European actress died of tuberculosis or cancer or eczema or something and Frank Sinatra did not so much sing as look as if he should have been Bing Crosby.
In our back yard, birds at our feeder scattered sunflower seeds.
Not one but six or seven came up.
They got minimal care.
They all bloomed.
There is probably some parable there, that Norman Vincent Peale or Euell Gibbons or Marlin Perkins of the Mutual of Omaha old-time nature show ("watch out for those sunflower teeth, Jim, they're bee-grinders!") could explain.
But I need not explain.
I can watch.
I can watch in my backyard.
I can watch sunflower seeds grow.
I hear bells ringing.