Standing in the rain, sipping a cup of coffee and trying to drum up an excuse to pack it in and curtail the day’s gardening work, I had a revelation.

I used to compare notes with friends and family on how much money we could blow on fireworks. Now it’s about marigolds, impatiens and where to get the best price on MiracleGro. When did that happen?

Surely this is no sign of maturity. I’ve fallen for that mirage before and won’t go there again anytime soon.

These two things couldn’t be more different, I thought, getting wetter by the minute under an unforgiving sky that was all but whispering, “Dude, give it up. Go home and sit by the warm glow of the tube and watch a movie.”

A good fireworks show means scraping some cash together, spending it all in a few minutes, then lighting a fuse and running. It can be a grand show, and it’s over in minutes. Don’t blink. There’s a mess afterward and usually a half-hearted attempt to clean things up.

Flowers, on the other hand, require a little less money up front, but there’s plenty of what the real-estate people call sweat equity. It can be a grand show, but it takes weeks or months to come together and weeks or months to fade – or one good, quick frost. It’s the beauty affirmed by a quiet “Yesss!” as opposed to a loud “Wow!” Blink all you want, and drink it all in.

Flowers also mean a mess, a constant, unyielding, growing mess. They’re called weeds, which is merely another word for a plant that you don’t want that’s trying to horn in on one you do want. I guess I was born a gentle soul, for my inclination is to let all of God’s little plants reach for the sun and reach their full potential. The weed didn’t ask to be a weed. People make tea out of thistles and salads out of dandelions – or did I just read that somewhere in the Boy Scout Fieldbook? – so what’s the problem?

Fortunately, a wise person told me long ago that the first task of gardening is killing plants. Put those zillions of marigold seeds in the ground, she said, and when they sprout in a few days, thin them mercilessly or you’ll regret it. And the only good weed is one pulled out by the roots. So much for all God’s creatures.

And this is how a person finds himself standing in the rain, coffee growing colder by the minute, pondering whether to keep weeding, weeding, weeding, as May is our month of warmth and rain and growth and morning glories among the roses. I tell you, if we could harness morning glories for ethanol, we could go back to feeding the world and tell OPEC to keep its oil.

The point is that the world needs all the beauty it can get. Fireworks work, and so do flowers. One demands an audience oohing and ahhing. The other stands quietly, soaking up sun and rain and offering a moment of respite for anyone wise enough to stop and look.