The other day I was outside in my backyard watering the plants. I have a sprinkler somewhere, but there’s this really stubborn and lazy resistance preventing me from digging it out and setting it up. My day-to-day routine would be a lot easier, which isn’t to say that I’m out there every day. But I’m at least thinking about it, as I waste time surfing the Internet, or rush to get ready so I’m no more than five minutes late to work. There’s always that nagging feeling in the back of my mind, dude, you have to water the plants.
Sometimes I’ll get a pretty good rhythm going, something almost resembling a routine. Maybe a stretch of three or four days will pass when I’m actually doing it somewhat regularly, I’m outside, I’m watering the garden. But then maybe it’ll rain and I’ll get the day off. And then the next day I’ll say to myself, well, it rained a lot yesterday, so I’m sure the ground is still wet. And then the day after that, I can see from my window that the soil is visibly dry, but going outside and doing something about it, man, I haven’t done that in three days now. I’m comfortable, settled in to a new routine of not going outside at all.
But more often than not I’m at least trying to take care of my tomatoes and lettuce, and so every other day or so, every three days, max, I head outside and turn on the hose. It’s an exercise not only in the responsibility of daily chores, but also one of patience and standing still.
Some days it’s easier than others. I’ll get lost in the moment, I’ll enjoy being outside, it won’t really feel like a chore at all. But then a lot of the time I’m antsy. All of that resistance that I was talking about earlier, just because I manage to make it outside doesn’t mean that I’m not still drawn back into the house, I can feel it, my chair, the computer, the Internet, they’re all beckoning me to put down the hose and resume my endless wasting of time.
I was out there and I’d been at the hose for maybe a minute, a minute and a half. Everything about being outside was bothering me. I’d been neglecting the lawn for a while now. Everything was starting to get really overgrown and wild. It was the first really, really hot day of the year, and so I was having a very minor freak-out about the passage of time, how I swear it was just winter, like I close my eyes and I can see myself shivering in the cold, closing my eyes in my mind and saying to myself, what the hell, I thought it was just summer. And I feel momentarily overwhelmed, like my whole life is just this blur, I’m trapped on carousel that’s going just a little too fast and I can never really get a good focus on the outside world for more than a second or two.
But even this micro-panic, at least it was occupying my mind. While I stood there and contemplated how in no time at all my life would be over, the hose was going, a minute turned into two minutes, at least something was getting done. But just as I was starting to settle into a standing-still routine, I was jerked abruptly back into the present.
What happened? It was my right leg. All of the sudden it was on fire. I looked down and, I must have accidentally parked my foot directly on top of an anthill, because below the ankle, it was covered in tiny ants. I freaked out, started swatting and scratching at my leg. I turned the hose on myself, and then at the anthill. I wasn’t thinking at all, it was just a pure reaction.
And then I started stomping around, because as I tried to shake all of the little insects from my foot, I realized that there were too many, that for every one that I squished against my skin, there were another two or three crawling out from the many crevasses inside my sneaker, in between the spaces of the fabric that made up my socks.
I retreated back inside and I could feel the itching for the rest of the day. Even when I went to bed later that night, they were there, little phantom ants desperately trying to grab my attention, doing anything in their power to get me to take just one more step. I briefly felt a little guilty for blasting their entire habitat with my hose, but I can’t get down on myself for that. That’s human instinct, that’s how we evolved to be the dominant species on this planet, by lashing out and immediately destroying anything that poses even an imaginary threat to our piece of mind, or lack thereof.
I really should go out there and clean everything up. The hose is still lying there, the plants could use another drink. But I can just see it now, me, I won’t be able to stay still, certainly not long enough to use the hose to saturate the ground. I’ll be too busy hopping around, swatting at thousands of potentially real insect bites. I should just look for that sprinkler. I know it’s around here somewhere.