Ivy makes me anxious. I think I am most disturbed by its uncontrollable desire for growth. And if its voracious appetite and lighthearted willingness to strangle other plants were not enough, rats love to live under its wide flat leaves. When we moved into our house, ivy swarmed over the chain link fence between our neighbor’s house and ours. We removed as much as we could, but like all demons, no matter how much you beat it back, it keeps returning.
Today I was seduced by the desire to get rid of all of it.
I was having some success yanking out weeds and collecting handfuls of dark and dusky leaves to put in my trusty Kangaroo Container when I spied the ivy. It has clearly spent the better part of the year and a half since we first attacked it plotting its revenge. I found myself overwhelmed with the desire to rip it all out, to trace back every grasping tendril to its root and yank it from the earth.
Sisyphus had nothing on me today.
As I attacked the ivy with increasing fury and desperation, all the fun was sucked out of gardening. I didn’t notice the dusky smell stirred up by my work. I unthinkingly banged my head on a low branch. I felt overwhelmed by the futility of the job and by my own inadequacy. I did not gain a shred of satisfaction from my work All I did was notice other parts of the garden that, wild with neglect, clamored for my attention. It was a relief when I finally forced myself to stop.
Some days I can happily tolerate the unfinishable quality of the work. On those days, I am freed up to notice the light and wind dancing in the fading sycamore leaves. Not today. Today I hated the garden and every grasping thing in it.
I think it the nature of desire to take us out of the present. I know that with my boys, I am sometimes overwhelmed with the desire for certainty, to know that they will be all right, to feel that they are finished. In those times, lost in the corrosive tendrils of what I want, I cannot see what I have.