, Port Arthur, Texas


April 10, 2013

Working words or weeds? No contest

AUSTIN — Every April, I get this overpowering urge to grow things. We inherited a well-landscaped yard. The previous owner planted lots of bulbs so flowers appear as if by magic. Suddenly, I see deep purple irises and bright red daffodils standing tall. They are visible through the window of my kitchen door. As soon as I see them, I want more.

Sometimes I fantasize about digging a vegetable garden.  Last weekend, I bought a tomato plant. With fingers crossed, I hauled it from my car to the backyard and plunked it down in the sunniest spot I could find.  It already had fruit hanging off of it when I saw it in the store. “Oh good”, I said.  “All I have to do is keep it growing”.

That sounds easy until I think about how many plants have died on my watch. If only I had my sister’s skills. Cindy’s thumb is as green as the ferns that dot her flower beds.  Everything she plants flourishes. She’s so committed to the earth, she has two gardens. One produces brightly colored flowers and blooming bushes while the other one offers up lettuce, cucumber, and squash.

I know she is happiest when she’s digging.  She even thinks about gardening while on vacation. One summer, she snagged lemons from a tree in Tuscany and then smuggled them past the customs agents. Ultimately, she planted those citrus seeds in her Texas backyard. Now she and her husband have a great story that accompanies the photos of their European trip. They also have an Italian lemon tree thriving right outside their kitchen window.

We have a fruit tree in our yard, too. Like the previously mentioned irises and daffodils, our peach tree was here when we moved in. I saw pink flowers on the tree, but assumed they were of the ornamental variety. Imagine my delight the morning I discovered those blossoms had turned into fruit.  Plucking one from a branch; it was between the size of a grape and a golfball; I ran into the house with it. “We have peaches, we have peaches!” I shouted to my husband in the shower. “Come see!” He took his time getting dressed before coming outside. By then he was grinning from ear to ear.  Can you tell we are city slickers?

The following year we waited for our harvest with eager anticipation. Those fuzzy green balls appeared right on schedule. That time the harvest was disappointing. Each peach had a worm inside. When I sliced into the first one, the neighbors probably heard my screams two blocks away.  Jimmy got on the phone with the county extension agent to find out what to do about the invaders. He sprayed every branch with a natural pesticide, but it was too late for last year’s produce.

Now we are waiting once more. Like a mom with a sleeping newborn, I check the peaches often. They won’t be ready until mid June.  Meanwhile, I’m still thinking about planting that vegetable garden.  I called Cindy for her input.  “Gardening is a lot of work,” she reminded me. She knows me only too well. “You really have to love it.”

“Do I love it?” I asked myself.  It’s a good question.  If I’m totally honest, I must admit the answer is no. I don’t love gardening.  I like gardening, but I love writing. If I am asked to choose between putting words on the page and putting seeds in the ground, I would rather be writing.

Cindy and I are alike in one way. We have found our passions and we feed them daily.  The idea that I might invest as much time in planting and weeding as in writing is preposterous.  There are only so many hours in a day.  Few people are good at more than one thing.  There isn’t time for me to be a gardener and a writer unless I don’t mind being average at both.  The next time I get the urge for home-grown vegetables,  I’ll drive over to Cindy’s and ask for a cucumber.  Or maybe I’ll just write about it.

Donia Caspersen Crouch was raised in Southeast Texas and lives in Austin. Contact her at

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