Turn your back on things for a bit, watch a few thunderstorms roll through, and the yard becomes a jungle. Weeds sprout tall and vines creep in, around, and over everything. Multiply that by a few years and even things you planted start to take over. In the front of my house, the dark north side where nothing is supposed to want to grow, the lily of the valley bullied the vinca into spreading eastward toward the black-eyed susans. It’s like watching a slow-moving tsunami of vines swarm over everything in their path. Last week, in a feeble attempt to keep five-year old Harper occupied while I gardened, I gave him scissors and the task of giving the vinca a haircut. He lasted for about two linear feet before giving up. No matter, it is more a question of ripping stuff out than trimming it.
Recently husband John started reclaiming the edge of the yard from the encroaching woods. Every fall we rake mountains of leaves into the woods. No way, Jose, are we going to–ha!ha!–bag them. Even carting them off to the drop-off at the edge of the field is way too much work. As a result, the edge of the yard has been inching its way closer to the house. The natural leafy compost has provided a rich environment for trees and bushes to grow, anchoring the new “shoreline” of nature. So John has been relocating all that leafy goodness down to his garden in the field, a field desperately in need of rich compost. He has also been chainsawing the undergrowth, resulting in about five more feet of yard across the front of the house.
I don’t want to hack away everything, however. In the sunny backyard, wild raspberries grow freely at the edge of the woods. Actually they grow almost anywhere there is a clump of vegetation, but I love raspberries so I hate the thought of ripping them out. This year is looking to be a good raspberry year. Beautiful clusters of berry buds abound on the bushes. The only question is who will eat them first–me or the deer? Past experience has taught me that the deer are keeping a daily check on those berries just as I am. But they get up earlier than I do and they aren’t afraid of thorns.
I had a long chat this week with an old friend from college days. In our fifties, we are both working on master’s degrees to stay professionally relevant. In a world that is constantly changing, we dare not sit idly by while new growth takes over. So we keep learning. Some of it is in a classroom, but much of it is in our personal gardens where blessings and thorns grow side by side. As we talked, it could have been a competition of whose life was thorniest at the moment (I think he wins that round); instead it was more of an encouragement to get out there and harvest the raspberries.