This weekend I found a caterpillar in my garden. My first impulse was “Squish it!” — I don’t use pesticides, bugs are often bad news. Mid-swing I gasped, and dropped my arm.
It was a Monarch.
As many of you know, Monarch butterflies are endangered by the depletion of their natural foodstuff, the milkweed plant. As part of my Retiring To Values plan (I simply mean devoting more time to The Good), I have installed native plants under my oak, and now in my side yard as well. Milkweed features heavily.
When I found the caterpillar, I was excited. As in, all is SO right with the world, exclaiming out loud, heart rate elevated. I posted photos to all my social media feeds in celebration.
And almost immediately wondered if I had become a nerd.
When social anxiety strikes, I want to deconstruct.
Is Gardening Nerdy?
Arguments for Yes
- Goofy clothes
- Tendency toward debris in the hair
- Exhaustive knowledge of arcane terminology and gear
- Excitement over apparently trivial events
- Long term fussing with hoses, seeds, and things that stick to your fingers
Definition of “Nerdy”
All of which is fun, but uncovers a need to define the term “nerdy.”
“Nerd” has always meant:
- Funny-looking, as in not sexually attractive,
- Funny-sounding, as in saying stuff that’s hard to understand, in a non-sonorous voice,
- Prone to solitary endeavors,
- Apt to hang out with others of type,
- Obsessed with an area of interest, to the point of being unable to carry on standard social conversation. Never say to a nerd, “Some weather we’re having.” It will not be a short conversation.
- And, which probably should have been first on the list, Not Fighters
In sum, nerds are Not Cool.
I think the concept of a Nerd, at least in Anglo-Saxon culture, carries over from the battlefield. Humankind fought a lot in the olden days. We needed good soldiers. They should be strong of body, terse in speaking, controlled in emotion. Cool. They shouldn’t care too much, about anything. Maybe a family, but a family far away.
We, and here I throw in my lot to Team Nerd, we are not good fighters. We research, we solve, we wax eloquent. But we don’t really want to punch you in the face. Even if you take our stuff. We’d rather talk to you about it thoughtfully; or, develop a drone that can track you down and take everything back in the night.
A Refined Argument for No, Or, Yes, But That’s OK
I hope humanity manages to ratchet down reverence for the fighter. This will of course require that we fight less. I mean no disrespect to our current soldiers. A job well done in the hope it may become unnecessary.
If we can, then, up our faith in the taker of care, in the solver of problems, in the lover of details, gardening and similar hobbies will be treasured. The tenders, venerated. All to the good, if we’re nerdy around our values.
Enthusiasm cannot be overrated.
Here is my gardening hat. Like this.
This is my delphinium.
I grew it from seed. Tough, that. A delphinium wants patience, grows to its own calendar, requires handwatering. We’re turning off our sprinklers here in drought land. I had to move the thing from my back yard to a prima donna location in my front yard. I even have to feed it.
But look up from the delphinium, just overhead, an enthusiastic rose has something to say. Add any caption you like, plants don’t mind handing over the microphone.
Do you have a nerdy hobby? Let us gather, and chat, enthusiastically. I’ll see you one crochet hook and raise you a pair of impermeable gloves.
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