Lately my hands have taken a beating and I’ve got no one to blame but myself. It happens around this time each year. Spring has sprung and all that jazz. With spring comes gardening and gardening comes with a cost – to my poor bare hands.
Simply put, gardening involves dirt and dirt is, well, dirty. It gets under your fingernails and sneaks into crooks and crevices you didn’t even know existed. I scrub with a toothbrush (not the one I use for my teeth) to remove any residual remnants of lingering soil. I soak my fingers and scrub some more, and then douse my hands in sanitizing gel as an extra precaution. Cleanliness is next to gardening-ness; I think that’s how it goes.
Gardening also involves objects of nature like twigs and thorns, which can scrape and scratch the skin. So far this year I’ve nicked a finger, found mysterious abrasions on my thumb and removed numerous slivers – all minor wounds and part of a gardener’s day on the job.
My husband disagrees. He thinks I go about this gardening thing in the wrong way. He believes I am neglecting to use two necessary and essential pieces of equipment: gloves. One for my right hand and one for my left.
When he works in the yard, he wears gloves. It is the prudent and professional thing to do. It also keeps black dirt from getting under your fingernails.
I know this. I have gloves. More than one pair, even. I try to wear them, but sometimes they get tossed aside or forgotten in the garage.
I have my reasons.
First, they are hot. Most often I garden on warm and sunny days. I dislike sweaty palms more than I dislike slivers (although it’s a close call).
Second, and more importantly, gloves keep my hands from getting dirty. For me, gardening is as much about the process as it is about the outcome. I love the feel of fresh and fertile earth on my fingertips when digging or planting. I carefully detangle and separate root balls before placing them in the cool soil. I tug at a weed, coaxing its taproot from deep underground. I sow tender sprouts or rows of tiny seeds. It’s hard to do these tasks when you’re wearing gloves.
Still, I know there are good reasons why I should follow the rules. There can be some icky unknowns in the soil that no one wants under their fingernails. Me included.
So as with most things in life, I try to do the right thing – sort of. I attempt to be prudent – mostly. Other times, I realize life is short. I can garden with my gloves on and miss out on having the fresh soil under my fingers or I can live life on the wild side – thorns and all.
It’s a day-by-day (sometimes minute-by-minute) decision. But it’s mine to make; it’s all of ours to make. Understanding that is even better than yanking out a huge taproot or holding a ball of black dirt in the palm of your hand.
Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright, author and member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. Don’t miss a slice; follow the Slices of Life page on Facebook.