Bluebells, snowdrops and tulips of all shapes and sizes have sprung up around the city. Spring may remind you to embrace impermanence and change as a sign of growth. If you’re a gardener, it may remind you to start dividing old plants and pruning summer-flowering shrubs. It used to remind me that it was time to renew raging waging war with local raccoons.
Last month, West-end-resident Dong Nguyen, 55, plead guilty to animal cruelty charges for attacking a mother raccoon and her babies with a shovel in 2011. They had been destroying plants in his backyard. While I strongly disagree with his actions, I understand his frustration.
My own attempts to keep raccoons out of my window boxes quickly escalated from conventional repellents to borrowing tactics from the Viet Cong. Each spring, I’d try a new strategy until one day I stuffed bamboo skewers pointed end up amongst my flowers, hoping my home made punji sticks would deter digging paws. Later that night, a plump raccoon lounged with its rear end spilling out over the sides of crushed flowers. Its padded posterior made it oblivious to the skewers. I banged on the glass of the window. It turned to look down its long nose at me before slowly waddling away.
I looked at my crushed plants the next day and for the first time, instead of immediately becoming carried away by my anger I just looked at them. I didn’t get caught up in a narrative of how I had to “win” my fight with the raccoons or how I “should” get replacement plants. For the first time, I noticed that the window boxes themselves were warped, rusty and ugly. Why was I so attached to the idea that I had to make them look nice?
My weaponized planters have since remained stashed in the shed. Spring no longer signals the start of a war and raccoon antics no longer raise my blood pressure. Instead, I look at where my window boxes once were and remember not to take myself so seriously. When I find a dug up or chewed up plant, I remind myself that the animals around me have as much of a right to be here as I do.
As more plants start springing up, I’m going to try to let go of my judgments about how my garden “should” be and enjoy it for what it is…at least until the city destroys the front yard to replace the water main. Baby steps.