Rufus patrols the border.

It’s hard to stay on top of runaway name-calling. Most of the tried and true insults now look like tread-bare bald tires, but a new slur my wife Rose has recently used got under my skin. “Don’t be a clod.” It uncovers a weakness of mine. I love the world of plants; I’ve got the green covered; but I don’t want to be a clod all the time.

Chlorophyll is hard at work for me all year long, but summer heat is aggravating the clod out of me.

Let me explain.

I lean left. I support public parks and gardens; clean air and water; health care for all and Black Lives Matter. If you want to keep score, and adhere to false dichotomies, this qualifies me as an unhinged, snowflake, tree-hugging, radical maniac who hates America.

I talk regularly with conservative friends who think President Trump hung the moon. (They disagree on whether POTUS is a “stable genius.”) None of them are white supremacists; a few are Black Americans. They love their children as much as I love mine.

Bergamot, Monarda fistulosa

Some of my progressive pals, on the other hand, wonder why I talk to the brain dead opposition at all. Actually, it is my privilege and duty. Their comas have been self-induced, and I am praying for a full and speedy recovery.

Both sides have found common ground on what may be the chronic state of my cloddishness. They are wondering why I have become so sympathetic to Herbert K. Nutterman, Donald Trump’s seventh chief of staff and “favorite Jew.” Nutterman, a former food and beverage manager at Trump Hotels covers the president’s ass while POTUS, in Christopher Buckley’s latest novel, tries to Make Russia Great Again.

Oh, the allure of power and the “meretricious glamour” of a job in the White House. Poor Herbert. “I felt a surge of ‘Vitamin T’ in my veins. Mr. Trump can have that effect on you.”

Herbert didn’t know what he was getting into. He should have stayed in hospitality, stocking mini bars.

Mountainmint, Pycnanthemum muticum

Buckley’s new, satirical fiction is hilarious, but the truth is still stranger than it, and not very funny. “Whoever defined history as ‘one fucking thing after another’ was onto something.”

Donald Trump is bat-shit crazy. Even my conservative friends shake their heads and say this is simply the way he is. That’s an enabler’s way to avoid saying the President is charmless, without irony or humor, has a dry well of curiosity—and so on.

The rush to partisan judgment has picked up a head of steam with the Covid pandemic, social unrest and economic uncertainty. We have gone around a blind bend with a heavy load. Social media has poisoned civility. We are piled up for a gargantuan grudge match billed as: Bad Guys: All or Nothing. It’s Bobo Brazil vs. The Sheik on black-and-white television every night. Maybe we’re all bad guys?

Can we calm down, talk a little and forget about soy boy, pea brain, stupid nut, potato head and chlorophyll clod? Let’s not argue who is the dumbest stump among us.

I may have found a way out after manifold detours in a confusing boxwood maze. I suddenly realized (or remembered) that hatefulness cannot survive in a peaceful garden.

Phlox ‘Speed Limit 45’

There are many beautiful and safe garden sanctuaries but not the White House Rose Garden. President Trump, last week, went rambling off script at a Rose Garden press conference. Rick Wilson, Trump critic and advisor to the Lincoln Project, observed that the President sounded like “…Grandpa got into the cooking sherry.”

There are a few basic requirements for a garden rapprochement: Relinquish the quaking distrust of one another; listen more and talk less. I’m not sure we will change minds, but the mockingbirds might sing.

Come with me.

It may be difficult to grapple with so much anger and anxiety, but I’ve got a commonsense idea I’d like to explore.

Kentucky State Fair tomato contest 2016

Why don’t we make believe that we are meeting in the cool of the morning and walk around my meadow? The bergamots and rattlesnake masters are almost done, and the tall, yellow-flowering tick-seed sentinels and compass plants are coming on. I want you to see what’s flowering in the garden, too. The pink summer phloxes are looking good; the white-flowering bottle-brush buckeyes never looked better. I am crazy about the silver-gray foliage of mountainmint— truly a great pollinator and bee plant. It takes a little of the sting out of the rust that ravaged the hollyhocks.

Let’s sit afterwards in the shade of a big sugar maple. We will socially distance and talk about our kids, gardens and even the current chaos, if we choose—or not.  No sherry and no shivs. I’ll make tomato sandwiches slathered with Duke’s mayonnaise. Let’s agree to plant more zinnias next year.

I have one favor to ask:  Please wear a mask. Don’t give me this stupid “I don’t have to wear one if I don’t want to” bullshit. I know masks are hot and uncomfortable in this wretched heat and humidity, but naked faces make my skin crawl.

Don’t be a clod.