Surrendering the Battle
by Holly Varni
April 21, 2022

Well, I’ve given up. I’m throwing in the towel. At my age, one must give up many things, but on this particular day, I’m voluntarily and wholeheartedly giving up the idea of ever having a nice garden and landscape. For my entire adult life, I’ve fiddle-faddled and nit-picked over the outside appearance of my home, but now I’m officially raising a white flag of surrender. Like generals who accept defeat after a long battle, I’m surrendering to my war against varmints. The birds, deer, raccoons, possums, rabbits, and snails who eat my garden. The stray cats who lie in my flower beds and the dogs who dig them up. The gophers who destroy all the roots underground and then pop up through a hole to laugh at me.

I have fought the good fight against wildlife and have only chewed-up stems for my effort. When I think back to the traps, sprays, weeding, fences, lights, and every other nonsense I poured energy into deterring them, I am downright embarrassed over my obsession.

As I threw my trowel into the abyss of the garage and chucked my gardening gloves into the trash, all I could think was that this day was inevitable, not because of my age but simply on the laws of citizenship. Perhaps I was the intruder making my mark on their land instead of the other way around.

So I bid farewell to my manicured utopia and limped inside with a sore back and aching knees from a lifetime of kneeling in the dirt and took a seat right in front of the window to watch the world deconstruct and my work to go to ruin. It took a couple days and a great deal of patience, but the critters and creatures came in droves, celebrating my departure.

I watched them nibble and nosh like children at Thanksgiving. Nothing was spared. Even my succulents took a beating. I had arranged the most bountiful harvest these animals had experienced in a long time, and they relished every morsel in gluttonous fashion. Even when the good stuff was long gone, they continued to come back. And wouldn’t you know, I began to look forward to it.

It surprised me how much I truly enjoyed watching the bandits. I even named the regulars. I eagerly anticipated their arrival in the early mornings and evenings. By week two, I put up a couple birdfeeders—out of sympathy of course, since all the colorful flowers were gone.

The hours disappear as I watch them flit about. The deer with their endless appetites mosey by with such grace and quietness and look at me in the window as if checking on me too. As our eyes lock, I’m happy for their visit and thankful there is something for them eat. 

All this time, I was creating what I believed to be beautiful, but I had been holding back the best part of Creation—the symphony which buzzes, flies, hops, meanders, burrows, slithers, crawls, and strolls through life. In surrendering my control, I’ve been given a glimpse into what heaven must look like with all the creatures in harmony—including this old fuddy-duddy.

Now I sit and look out to a new kind of natural beauty, one that never ceases to entertain me and put me in awe. Letting go of my ideal yard turned out okay . . . although I am second-guessing my decision about leaving cans of tuna outside for the cats. The number of visitors is getting out of control.