Monday, March 1, 2010

The Changing of the Gloves

A friend of mine has a penchant for pointing out the needless materialism that is often evident around us. Although it has been quite some time since I've heard his familiar cadence of "things, things, things" in response to another friend pointing out his or her newest gadget, toy or collectible. We give him a hard time about his crusade against things, but in many ways he has a valid point about the extravagance of American society and our capacity to stockpile such an arsenal of things that it's physically impossible to use them all.

Gardeners are not immune to this disease of things. We collect so many of the latest weeding and watering gadgets to go along with our propagation and cultivation equipment that it looks like a flea market set up shop in our garages and sheds. I can't even list the number of tools that hang unused from pegs along the wall of my garage.

But there is one thing -- one tool -- in my collection of gardening equipment that earns its space on the shelf. My annual pair of landscapers gloves. In the past 15 years, I've tried about every type of gardening glove imaginable. I was never quite satisfied with a pair until I bought my first pair of Rugged Wear landscaper's gloves three or four years ago.

When I'm in the garden, whether I'm weeding the smallest of shoots or hauling hardscape materials, I need to feel my fingers. If you've ever seen a rabbit snip and nibble a dandelion, that's about how long I keep gloves on that ruin my dexterity.

The Rugged Wear gloves are the perfect balance between protection, comfort and dexterity. But this balance comes at a price -- about $7.99 each year -- because they don't last more than a season in the garden. By the end of the growing season, as I'm stuffing yard waste and leaves in bags to be recycled, the seams of the gloves fingers have begun to fray. By late October or early November, I can often be seen with one or two fingers protruding from the burst seams.

Yesterday, I made a trip to Menard's to buy the 2010 edition (on left above) so that I can say goodbye to the pair (on right above) that served me so well in 2009. As I look at the worn leather palms and torn finger seams on last year's gloves, I can see the whole year in the garden. The plants that arrived and departed. The retaining wall I built around the patio. Countless hours of weeding, trimming and pruning. The wheelbarrows full of mulch I carted around the landscape.

The gloves are more than just things. They are the one constant through all of this, from first bud to last leaf. So the changing of the gloves is more than just a material replacement. It is a ceremony of sorts. As the new growing season arrives, I wonder what this new pair of gloves will witness during my new year in the garden.

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