The hydrangeas, known as Suzane and Uncle Bud, survived a brutal pruning last fall. They also survived a relocation mandated by the construction of a new screened porch. And they survived winter. Come the first warm day, they were covered in tight buds the color of English peas. Hydrangeas are my favorite flower and nothing makes 95 degrees and serious humidity bearable like the sight of a big vase of hydrangeas in the middle of the kitchen table. Alas, there will be none this summer. I walked outside the other morning to find that the deer – the deer at whom I do not shoot, the deer who wander freely through my yard and feast mightily on saw tooth oak acorns in the fall – had nibbled off every single hydrangea bud. They had tiptoed their way to within 15 feet of my back door, had actually walked across a significant portion of concrete carport, and banqueted on my buds. I did not cry. I wanted to. I wanted to find one of those deer and look him or her in those luminous brown eyes and pitch a fit such as has never been seen. I wanted the buck to spread the news, the doe to warn her children, I wanted every deer within a hundred acres to understand that one does not mess with the hydrangeas growing behind the little gray house. Instead, I took a deep breath and reminded myself that we, the deer and I, are neighbors. That we, the ravenous omnivores and I, are all a part of the same ecosystem. That we, the makes-me-want-to-say-a-bad-word trespassers and I, have to figure out a way to co-exist. I understood, of course, that the figuring was entirely incumbent upon me. I had a year to do it. But, then, the next day I went outside to water the geraniums and coleus and amaryllises – plants which are, apparently, not deer delicacies – and discovered one uneaten bud. A single survivor of the massacre. It was beginning to open, the tiny florets just barely peeking out at me. Like Wonder Woman against the Germans, I sprang into action. I hoisted a discarded wooden pallet onto its side, establishing its verticality by leaning one side against the foundation of the screened porch and stacking concrete edging blocks three high on either side of the pallet. It is not attractive. But it has worked. So far. I will not declare victory, though, until a fully-bloomed hydrangea head is flopping over the edge of my favorite vase. Until I am sure that my efforts have defeated the deer. Until it is clear that I have won. So every time I head out the back door these days I am glancing at the hydrangea bush, making sure my little blossom is still there. And in the glancing I’ve found myself considering what it means to fight for something you love. Does it always involve force and weapons? Doesn’t it sometimes require simply watching and waiting, being stubborn and unyielding in your love?
Even without Wonder Woman’s Lasso of Truth there are some things that can’t be denied and one of them is that love does whatever it has to, even when that is nothing. I want that hydrangea blossom. I want to see it, hold it, sniff it. I want to revel in the fact that it exists because I protected it. But if I don’t get that – if my nascent bloom dies, if my great wall falls, if some maniacal deer plows through – I will still love hydrangeas. I will love hydrangeas and I will wait until next year. I will wait and stand watch.