By Karen Zhang
These days I have been practicing the known tagline—“More saving, more doing. That’s the power of the Home Depot.” As summer is around the corner, I spend more time outdoors—not working out but gardening. I till, I dig, I shovel, I mow, I plant, I water, I bend down on my knees and stoop a thousand times before I stand and clap off the dirt from my gloved hands. After spending a considerable amount of time outdoors, I wonder if I’ll become an amateur biologist, following Rachel Carson’s footpath.
In the past, I thought the Home Depot was a man’s world while Macy’s department store might be a better venue for women’s shopping sprees. But this spring, my numerous visits to the Home Depot have changed my impression of American life.
Unlike the urban Chinese who would rather hire others to fix their homeowners’ problems, many Americans spend hours in bettering their properties. Gardening is only a small part—and the most visible one—of the changes you can do to improve living. I didn’t realize how rewarding gardening would be for me until I have an American life. (I didn’t have such a luxurious time and space in China where a majority of people worked their butt off all year round just to skimp and save to buy their first apartment.)
It’s the environment that changes my view. I see more grassland and trees in America, not to mention squirrels, rabbits and deer cohabitating with humans. I would not pay as close attention to the plant names as now. Despite the need to reshape the landscape for urbanization, Americans try to preserve nature as intact as possible. No wonder a Chinese friend of mine who came to the U.S. for the first time said to me that most parts of the country look more rural than China. Perhaps because of this sense of protection, Americans begin their reservation from their back yards and front lawns, as well as from their balconies for those who live in condos.
A report done by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency shows landscape irrigation nationwide is estimated to account for almost one-third of all residential water use. In drier climates, up to 50% of household water use comes from landscaping. When I first read these figures, I was startled by the fact that how generous Americans were to use water for their gardens instead of for drinking. There’re so many regions in the world today that are still in drought or forced to use contaminated water.
As an old saying goes, “No pains, no gains.” But for beginners, you should be prepared that your pains may not be returned with gains. I’ve experienced it many times. Yet, I’m still enjoying more doing around the house. Gardening makes me wonder now and then—as I look out at the flowers I planted, I can’t believe I am in America.