My mother always wore gardening gloves, even when she drove a hand spade into the soft suburban ground to nestle her purple hyacinth bulbs.
But I’m different. I don’t care that my knuckles get nicked or that my nails are ringed with half-moons of dirt. I want to make contact with the minerals and the stems, no formalities needed.
When the seasons collided in late winter and it was summer for a day, I barreled into the garden and raked and clipped and swept and gathered all the crumpled leaves, the flower balls, and slanted twigs. They had kept the ankles of the plants warm, but now they were wool socks on a muggy day.
After I hauled the remains to the botanical cemetery behind the garage, the backs of my hands were alive with red scratches and my fingers were christened with a dusting of glimmery dirt.
But by afternoon a gash on my palm ached. That night I scrubbed out the dirt with a bar of Ivory, just as my mom would ward off poison ivy with Fels-Naptha laundry soap.
Maybe it needed antibiotics, I thought, dabbing some on and going to bed with a bandage.
The next day, the pink opening called to me with the only voice it had. I soaked it in warm water again, but at the deepest part, a speck remained. With a pair of tweezers and eyes sharper than mine, my son extracted an infinitesimal thorn.
I’ve never thought of myself as a warrior. Swords are for killing and shields are for raising barriers. But don’t we hurt each other every day without even trying? Don’t lovers protect themselves from what their bodies want to conceive? Danger comes in equal measure as beauty.
Nature has boundaries, and so must you. Coax the climbing roses, claw out the river stones, press the seeds in deep, but take care. Protect yourself so love can last.