25 April 2009

Even Mother Nature Needs to Frog Sometimes

When we bought our current house, this was our front yard. The first pictures we ever saw of the house had huge vines growing up the front porch and into its roof (yeah, a problem, we know), but by the time we actually looked at the house, some smart person with a vested interest in selling had cut down the vines… leaving this pathetic and gnarly stump.

Last summer, the stump sprouted anew. I did not really have the energy to deal with it, except to cut the new baby vines and the branches that were small enough for my handheld garden clippers, and spray the darn thing with Roundup on a semi-regular basis until it stopped creating new shoots and tendrils.

Why is the poisoned stump in my front yard a subject for a knitting-and-sometimes-spirituality blog? Because today was the day I tackled the stump. And somewhere in the six hours it took me to remove the damn thing entirely, I had a knitting-and-spirituality-related revelation. So here goes.

It was a really beautiful day today. Amazingly so. After a sometimes-record-cold winter and a very unusually chilly and therefore protracted spring, today was a day when you could actually have hope that summer might come. I never saw a thermometer or a weather report, but there were rumors of temps in the 80s. A gorgeous, sunny day -- objectively "nice" weather, but also particularly nourishing for the spirit. I had planned to spend the day faithfully writing a sermon and doing other dutiful work things, but… that stump was calling to me, mocking me, daring me to ignore it for one more week (and watch, it’ll rain every Saturday for the next month and the darn thing will come back to life). And I just couldn’t let that stump tease me like that. After a quick trip to the hardware store, I was ready. Shovel: check. Hacksaw: check. Axe: okay, I didn’t buy an axe, and I probably should have, but the claw-side of a hammer ended up working almost as well in the end. Pretty green flower pot: check. I needed $5 more in my purchase total in order to use my $5 off coupon. That flower pot was free, dammit.

Back to the stump. I began shortly after 2:00 p.m. I dug and dug and dug, trying to get under the left-hand side of the stump, pulling up and sawing off as much of the root system as I could access. By 4:30 or so, I’d gotten this far:

Pretty respectable, I'd say. That pile of cut-off stump pieces is almost as big as the remaining stump, so that's some decent work there. I was feeling motivated, like I'd actually made some progress and I was going to use that momentum to do Great Things!

It was the next part, though, that brought my great revelation.

This second photo is from 6:30ish. I'd hacked away considerably at the stump and gotten to a corm-like structure -- not a solid piece of wood, but a giant snarl of branches that had wound around one another and grown together. And that's when I realized... I was untangling Mother Nature's mistake. I was picking apart a giant wooden knot.
I was frogging.

I think that a part of me had been feeling guilty for pulling up and killing this living thing that is, in all probability, older than I am. That's part of why I avoided dealing with it last summer, and part of why I felt the need to dedicate a huge chunk of time all at once -- rather than kill it in pieces, I needed to kill it swiftly and justly. In spite of all the Roundupping I'd done last year, this venerable bush was still trying to send up little shoots again today. It was really hanging on. And I couldn't just cut up part of it and leave the base still struggling to live in my front yard. Once I saw that I wasn't really
destroying so much as frogging, my task became so much easier to accept. Just like with frogging a knitted item that doesn't work, I was frogging this tangle of limbs so that something could grow in this space again.

Turns out, that final chunk took me nearly an hour to break open, but only about 10 minutes to disassemble once I figured out how to take it apart. It was almost a double-helix structure at its heart, spiraled around and around itself. I think Norah Gaughan would have appreciated its simplicity. There were some stubborn roots that just wouldn't give up (and a couple big'uns running under the porch, so I couldn't access them), but I managed to extract a lot of the root system before deciding it was time to let go and fill in the hole.

Right when the sun was headed down behind the trees at the end of the street (8ish), I managed to set the edging of my new flower bed, spread the dirt evenly, and plant some seeds. There will be sunflowers, marigolds, and "an assortment of wildflowers" poking their little noses up before long.Ain't creation grand?

1 comment:

sweetea said...

oh my, i do love you!!! i think it is so damn funny that you were wearing your red danskos while hacking away at the vine! good for you, you're a rock star!

now...when do we get started with your back yard?