This is absolutely a true story. And it's not for the faint of heart.
When I was in high school, one of my best friends (we'll call him Skippy) was the son of a rose grower. His dad and grandfather owned a huge compound of greenhouses that grew the most beautiful and fragrant of flowers in every variety and color imaginable. The facility was composed of two long rows of greenhouses, stacked like the rungs of a ladder with access at the ends. I remember seeing inside the greenhouses once when I was younger. The roses had been there for so long that some of the stems were as thick around as my wrist. They tangled and twisted around trellises that had become integrated into the plants.
Skippy would bring me flowers if I had a bad day, but other than that, I didn't really think about the greenhouses too much.
Many years later, Skippy's dad had to close his business. The cost of growing roses in this country became higher than the cost of importing them from South America, so he closed the doors and sold the property, greenhouses and all.
It was sold and resold, sitting vacant for several years.
Meanwhile, something terrible was going on inside.
A friend of ours (we'll call her Vi) became interested in renting the greenhouses to start a wholesale plant nursery. She contacted the current owner and scheduled a time to view the property. She arrived to look around and began in the storefront, which included the business office and a small cold storage room where, once, customers could select their own cut flowers.
This is where things began to get a little strange. Vi, an active outdoorswoman, immediately noticed the telling odor of copper pennies, and as her olfactory nerves registered the danger, she began to see movement in places where there should be none -- slithering, hissing movement as the snakes that had infested the empty office took note of the intruders.
She quickly moved on.
Hopeful in spite of this as she contemplated the possibility of starting a new business, Vi entered the first greenhouse. The roses were still there, wild and unkempt after years of neglect. But the constant warmth and humidity had fostered another kind of growth in the absence of regular cultivation, for the infestation apparent in the business office became something akin to a horror movie in the greenhouses. Snakes of countless variety and size tangled in knots and piles all over the greenhouse, hissing aggressively at Vi and her intrusion into their realm. They hung from rafters and coiled around the roses, indistinguishable in places from the turning, twisting plant growth.
Vi exited as fast as she could, but was undeterred in her efforts to open her business in this location. She hired someone to bushhog inside the greenhouses, thinking that surely, he could get rid of the problem. Five minutes in, he turned around, drove the tractor out, and refused to do the job. Turns out, what Vi had seen in the first greenhouse was just the tip of the iceberg.
She walked away.
Sometimes there are just too many snakes.
I have thought about this a lot over the past few months. I am terribly disturbed that these greenhouses, now a phobia-inducing breeding ground for horror, were once the guardians of the symbol of love, beauty and purity. That neglect and lack of cultivation could turn a fertile garden into a den of vipers. Is that really all it takes for the serpents to take over?
I believe this is an apt analogy for the fertile ground of our lives. We have so much opportunity to bring forth good fruit, but the seeds of corruption are sown as soon as we fail in the constant pruning and retraining that are so necessary in cultivation.
I drive past these greenhouses regularly, and as I pass, I am simultaneously compelled to speed up and slow down. I want to see the snakes . . . but I want to have already seen them so I don't have to actually go and do it. We watched The Dark Knight last night (I HIGHLY recommend it), and I recognized the same feeling: I wanted the memory of already having seen it, without the stress of experiencing it in the moment.
They have begun to dismantle the greenhouses this winter, while, I assume, the snakes are underground. I should have gone to peek in the window before the cooler weather hit. Maybe if there are still some greenhouses standing in the spring time, I'll muster up enough courage to satisfy my curiosity.
Anybody wanna come?