My annual Felder Fesses Up column is usually a reminder of the good and bad of the year we are leaving as I inevitably conclude what a strange year that has been.
In the liminal “thin space” between the old year and the new, I recall the foibles and follies of the past year and wonder what quirks and oddities the new year will bring with it, like tin cans attached to the bumper of a wedding car are bound.
But a fictional event predicted 60 years ago is an unconventional sign of how things turned out. As a kid, did you marvel at The Jetson’s futuristic robots, computers, holograms, shuttle craft, and other inventions, all of which are routinely used today? But understand this: According to the show’s timeline, George was supposed to be born in 2022. The future is indeed here.
Anyway, for some reason I don’t feel like admitting it this year. I’ve been doing it with other imperfect gardeners on the Mississippi Facebook page all year. Despite torrential spring rains, hot dry summers, giant stink bugs, and who knows what that last winter storm did, the biggest disappointment of my year is heartache: I successfully had a basal cell cancer patch cut out of my nose after living without a lifetime had to wear sunscreen. Let’s all do better.
And talk about crepe murder! In a move both backward and proactive, I helped my son Ira chainsaw a giant, scale-infested weeping myrtle; Instead of having to apply powerful insecticides every year or two for decades, he literally cut his losses. But we recycled the thick stems into a funky, rustic fence around my front yard.
One of the most poignant events of my year – heck, my life – was captured in a photo of me and my little granddaughter Ali doing something together in my garden for the first time. I took advantage of the moment and showed little Ali how to eat goldfish out of her hand, just like I was shown when I was a child in my great-grandmother’s garden.
For years I’ve been encouraging people to “take a kid to a farmer’s market…”. Maudlin maybe, but it’s important to seize those little moments, knowing they can affect more than just us, sometimes for much longer. Like the tradition on December 31st where Father Time passes the torch to Baby New Year.
Finally, this year I did something strange to focus on the here and now. In the center of my garden’s entrance arbor I hung a unique feature that I call The Rope. The 1.50m thick manila rope has a large knot near one end and blocks the way so there is no way without touching it.
It’s surprisingly heavy and hairy to the touch, which is an unexpected tactile experience for garden visitors. First-time callers usually wonder out loud if they could swing away.
Unlike a solid, protective gate, The Rope’s purpose is simple: touching something so gross and physical will slow anyone down. Makes them feel something to literally navigate the subtle transition between a large, complex world and a smaller, quieter, safer space.
Just as my daughter, Zoe, is banging her fist against the eager noses of the older, less adaptable dogs at the shelter she helps manage, I tie the knot and briefly push The Rope aside while pacing between two realms of reality . It says both “Good luck, come home safe” and “There and back – welcome home”.
The Rope is my everyday New Year’s moment – a reminder of the comings and goings, hopefully better each time. Looking back, there was good stuff, not so good stuff. Better next year right?
Felder Rushing is a Mississippi-based author, columnist, and host of “Gestalt Gardener” on MPB Think Radio. Email gardening questions to email@example.com.