Maurice Sendak had it all wrong.
Forget Max. Forget Max sailing to where the wild things are.
If you want to find the real wild things this summer, you need to come to our backyard and look at the plots of land that once upon a time were gardens.
They're easy enough to find. There's the big, green, tangled mess up by the house, and the bigger, greener, more tangled mess down in the back.
I went out early this morning to weed and assess. I have not lavished the same care and attention on my gardens as I did last year. My summer has been too squirrelly, my time too fragmented. The gardens have largely gotten what might be called "a lick and a promise," only I never followed through on the promise.
But even if I had, I would still be in trouble this summer because I planted everything just too…darn…thick.
Down in the sod garden, there are pumpkin vines here, pumpkin vines there, pumpkin vines everywhere. I have pumpkins setting already, some of them three feet up in the air, because the plants are so strong (and close) that the vines cannot reach the ground. I tried to reroute where I could, cutting away leaves and extraneous vines to bring the pumpkinettes back down to earth.
While working in the pumpkins, I kept looking for zucchini. My dad is already bringing us armloads out of his garden. His aren't fighting with pumpkins for space like mine are. Warren, wandering down, finally spied one - not in the zucchini patch, but in the pumpkin patch.
And forget the broccoli. I moved it into the sod garden so it wouldn't bully the peppers and eggplants this year. The peppers and eggplants are going great guns this summer. The broccoli? It turns out there isn't enough constant sun in the lower garden. After being the biggest kids in the class last summer, this year they remind you of the kindergartener who just barely made the birthday cut off and is standing on tiptoes at the drinking fountain - the little drinking fountain.
Up in the kitchen garden, which is where I headed next, things are hardly better. The eggplants and peppers seem to be doing well, if a bit crowded. But it is after those first few rows that everything falls apart.
If you look closely (in the garden, not in any photos), you might, might, see some onions. I planted five rows of Walla Walla onions.
F-I-V-E. Cinco. Cinq. 5
I can find two rows. T-W-O. Dos. Deux. 2
I think I would find more but the tomatoes have so taken over everything that I can't see the ground, let alone any onions.
"Girls Gone Wild" has nothing on my version of "Tomatoes Gone Wild."
For a while this morning, I pruned the tomatoes relentlessly. Because of my inattention earlier this season, most of them are neither staked nor caged. The result is mayhem. And because the bushes are so thick, no matter how I carefully I picked my way through them, there was the continual crunch of broken vines underneath my feet.
It was not a pretty sight.
Did I mention the Lazy Housewife beans against the back wall? Their wall of green is the only thing that tops the tomatoes. The beans are starting to come on and I can only imagine how many more tomato vines I will break while wading in to pick them.
After I finished hacking my way through the tomatoes, I came in, showered off the mud, and turned my attention to indoor chores. Unbeknownst to me, Warren, who is spending the morning stripping xylophone bars on the back deck, took a stab at caging one of the tomato plants.
I just discovered his attempts a half hour ago.
"I thought it would help," he said, somewhat deflated by the result.
It didn't. Now, in addition to the tangled green mess of tomatoes, I have one caged, tangled green mess as well.
In Sendak's marvelous book, Max tames the wild things by shouting "BE STILL!" and staring at all of them "without blinking once." For that, they made him king of all wild things.
Stare as I might, my tomatoes are unmoved. They are holding their own wild rumpus this summer, as are the pumpkins.
King of the wild things? Not this year, not this garden.