You never know what’s going to tip the scales, sending an ordinary moment into a meltdown.

Today it was the netting to cover the newest raised vegetable bed, netting that would protect the seedlings from local wildlife. We’ve put up netting before, successfully encasing the dozen already-in-use raised beds. We know what brand of bird netting works for us and that’s why we ordered more of it. 

In line with the coronavirus pandemic precautions, we ordered three of these nets online for curbside pickup, and asked the store employee to set the plastic shopping bag in the car via the open hatch at the back. We drove home and navigated the potential contagion as we usually do, releasing one of the nets from its packaging then putting the packaging and other nets in quarantine, and washing up. 

I mumble sing the Happy Birthday song to ensure I’m washing for the recommended duration, determined to disarm this particular virus right away. After washing up I had a closer look at the netting, and instantly felt that something-is-not-right grab in my belly, which in turn instantly ignited several rounds of the Oh Shit Mantra as we saw this was NOT the netting we expected. It was instead a dreaded alternative version of netting. Netting more like a floppy formless loose knit nylon trap than the tidy, firmly squared off sheet-like plastic netting we have come to love. 

We really wanted to get this next bed enclosed so we could plant the four tomato seedlings we bought yesterday in hopes of a better tomato harvest. The few seedlings we barely managed to start in the house this spring were surviving, not thriving. It was hard to imagine their producing an adequate abundance of tasty tomatoes. We really wanted to get another bed enclosed so we could transplant some of the cauliflower and cabbage seedlings that we did manage to start outside. They were growing well but crowded and yearning for more space. It was so easy to ignore the plant spacing recommendations even though we would be reluctant to thin what so vigorously sprouts and takes root. Who wants to interfere with this miraculously generous lifeforce of nature?!

We tried anyway to hang this imposter netting. Finding the actual ends and edges was the first of many challenges. As the challenges grew so did our stress. As our stress grew, our chances of ever figuring things out shrank. We couldn’t find a way to stretch and secure this netting and we couldn’t find a way to stretch and secure our ability to communicate gently when all hopes were being dashed faster than we could grasp and pull this netting into position over the frame.

It was a stalemate: Determined Us versus Nasty Netting. It was a tie for first who exclaimed, “Done! We’re done! This is so not worth it!” I’d like to think it was me who spoke first but I suspect it was he making a more sensible decision in that moment than I could muster.

I pulled the uncooperative netting away from the frame. He coiled it up as I shed tears, sputtering and stomping about. “I really wanted to get this netting up!” (Face screwed up against stronger emotions.) “I really wanted a safe place for the tomatoes! I really wanted to finish this! I really wanted to feel like we accomplished something!”

Just then I noticed some dog poop on the ground and announced, “I’m going to pick up dog poop. THAT is something I can accomplish!”

I proceeded with a search and retrieve pattern around the yard and successfully completed the removal of three dog poops. And I still felt like crying. 

Keeping the plants happy and healthy has become VERY important to me. Especially today when we faced more uncertainty about his health while getting ready for, traveling to, and coming home after his CT scan. What’s really VERY VERY important to me is keeping HIM happy and healthy. And safe from the Big Predator Mortality. The tomatoes? Well, they are just tomatoes.

So today it was bird netting that tipped the scales. 

I could tip the scales back toward a balance point by ordering the precise netting we like from another vendor. I did this right then and there standing outside next to the raised bed thanks to this cell phone technology stuff. And I tipped back the scales by looking up what I ordered today and confirming (complete with a screen shot for proof) that what is pictured on the website is NOT what I was sold. So at least I’m not guilty of faulty ordering. Which means I’ll return without shame the disappointing netting, including the package we opened. 

What I cannot tip back are the scales of his health. It is what it is. It will be what it will be. 

I predict I’ll have a few more bird netting meltdowns as we continue our efforts to protect these vegetables we love. The accompanying tumultuous subterranean theme is this: I do not like feeling so helpless when it comes to protecting this special person I love.