Nevada is a dry and seemingly barren land. As spring arrives, green sprouts poke their head above the soil, but anyone who has lived here knows that summer will bring dryness that turns the soil into concrete from which no plant can be removed and in which no hole can be dug; also, every one of those green shoots, no matter how pretty, will eventually turn into a tumbleweed. Plus, there are ants. Once I tried to drown the ants, which gave rise to more tumbleweeds, thorny sprouts with stalks as big around as my wrist and ten feet tall, reaching for the top of the fence and sprawling out into the easement.
The only way to defeat the hardy plants that have evolved to enjoy this climate is constant warfare. Anything green must be reaped the moment it appears, before it fastens itself into its emplacement. I have fought these plants. The first year at this house the front stones were so overgrown with brown stalks that the neighbor gave me a propane tank and a long nozzle with a burner at the end. I felt like the troops on Iwo Jima, racing across the landscape, burning everything in my path. I even set the juniper on fire.
Gardening gives me a lot of time to think, while my hands go through the mindless formation of blisters. When faced with successful organisms like ants and tumbleweeds, the mind of the interloper turns to thoughts of annihilation. It would be so nice to raze forever these colonies that irritate me. No matter how good they are at regrowth, I am man, the powerful, the chosen one. I have a goal. How can these lesser beings still befuddle me?
Then I realize that Hitler and Stalin must have felt the same way. Pol Pot and Ghengis Kahn also wanted to expand their kingdoms and revolutionize society. The temptation to control our environment, to destroy anything that doesn’t fit with our vision comes from frustration at the endless growth and regeneration of what we consider to be our lesser cousins. I just can’t stamp out the ants or the tumbleweeds. Instead there must be a constant evolution. I struggle to hold my yard back from the masses, and we reach an uneasy truce that may not exactly fit my vision, but allows me to live in harmony with my surroundings.