I don't know how I failed to realize this before. Nearly five years I spent as a professional gardener—a grizzled green-collar mercenary battling my way through clients' front lines of horticultural revolt—but somehow the epiphany only struck this weekend, in my own backyard. I suppose this would be akin to a true mercenary, having spent a decade or so embroiled in bitter civil war and sectarian conflicts, suddenly reaching the astonishing conclusion that humans don't always see eye to eye—but only after returning home and getting in a tiff with his wife over how to properly launder bedsheets.
When I was a Gardener by trade, every drop of sweat—every pulled muscle, dislocated joint, and hideous sunburn—were chalked up as hazards of the job. Gardening was hard work, but in my professional career, all work has been hard. That's what makes it work. In exchange for 8 hours worth of pulling up sod and throwing my back out, I got a paycheck. But now, when it's on my own dime, I am starting to see that gardening as a hobby is hard; it's difficult; it's tricky; it's time consuming; it's grueling. When things go wrong, rather than getting paid overtime to make them right, I now have to go back to the nursery and spend more of my money (sorry, baby, our money) to fix things. If I hurt my back lifting a stump into a wheelbarrow, the doctor's bill shows up in my mailbox, not L&I's. If a section of lawn-edging doesn't look quite right, I have to stare at it every day, annoyed, until the irritation builds to an unreasonable, fiery rage and I tear up the plastic, throw it on a fire, and douse the whole yard with the ensuing napalm.
This gardening thing is kind of a bum deal.
Except that it's not. Whatever pain, expense, or frustration pops up along the way, I've never been happier than I am in the backyard with my wife and daughter. No matter the dirt, sweat, fatigue or Daisy-induced delays; no matter that it may only be for fifteen, exhausted minutes after getting home from a full day of real work, I still love gardening. Even if it is hard.