Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Undoing

Once I started I couldn't stop. I lopped off branches and threw them in a pile off to the side. I yanked at long vines that were tangled up amongst the other plants. Sweat soaked through my shirt. It was over 90 degrees and humid and the shade had been gone for hours. I could feel my shoulders starting to burn. I was knee deep in undergrowth and I tried not to think about the summer's spider infestation. My daughter looked up from the porch stoop where she was making umbrellas out of twigs and leaves for her bug cafe. “Mom, what are you doing?”

I wasn't even supposed to be here. I had expected to be gone by now, that had been our agreement. This place was too big for me, too much house, too much sweeping yard for one person to keep up, and then caring for the kids on top of that.

“You're cutting off all the green stuff.”

“Not all of it,” I said. After I had been at it for an hour I uncovered the plants I had put in the first year. Tiger lilies and day lilies. My feeble effort to make it feel like a country garden. I would dig up the bulbs and take them with me when I left.

By this time I was finding plants I didn't even know were there. Volunteers that had taken root and sprouted up amongst the weeds. A volunteer tree for god's sake. It was three feet tall. And there were the juniper bushes the builders had planted. They had died years ago and the forsythia had just grown up and over them. I got a shovel and started digging them out.

The evening was drawing near. I was exhausted. I wanted to collapse. It wasn't an option. I had to keep going. My son picked up a pair of clippers and got down in the muck with me. He wanted to help. I pointed out small limbs he could cut. I tried to keep my mind on the task at hand, tried for the hundredth time not to think of it, that thing which felt like a knife through the very center of me. My kids would talk to me and I'd have to repeat their words in my mind, focus hard.

As I made my way to the back of the forsythia bush, clipping off branches, two birds flew out and then another. I stopped. I looked closer. After a minute I saw it. I called the kids over and held them up one at a time so they could see too. Tucked deep in the branches was a bird's nest. I backed off and worked quietly around the nest, trying to trim back the bush yet not to disturb their home.

It had all started the other day when my eyes fell upon the landscaped area between the walkway and the front of the house and it looked awful. It had looked awful for the whole summer, unkempt and overgrown – I'm sure we were the bane of the neighborhood association – but I had never cared until now. Suddenly I couldn't bear to look at it. Suddenly I couldn't walk by and not see it.

I devoted most of a Sunday to the project. I pulled every weed. Cut back all the bushes. Six wheelbarrow loads piled high and dumped back in the woods. When it was done, I stepped back and surveyed my work. There was no mistaking. It looked like shit. But 100% better than when I started.

What I noticed was this, that when I looked at it, I felt like I could breathe. And every day, when I drove up to the house and my eyes fell upon it, I felt like I could breathe. It made me feel a little freer.

There was still one stump, however, I had not been able to remove. It's roots were particularly deep and they were tangled up with the roots of other live plants that I didn't want to destroy. I had worked for a long time to try to get it out and finally given up. A week later, I returned. By this time, the weather was cooler. A light rain was beginning to fall. I drove the shovel into the earth, again and again, trying to get to the bottom of this thing. I pulled at it and pulled and it clung fast to the earth. The rain was falling harder. I continued to dig.

For a moment, I stopped and stood there in the rain and the new, raw emptiness of the garden and I rested my forehead on the end of the shovel. My hands were covered in dirt so I wiped my tears on my sleeve. It was just too much to take in. It had been there for the longest time and I hadn't seen it. Why hadn't I ever bothered to look? Right in front of my eyes, for fuck's sake. Had I only looked.  But then who would have ever thought?

The course of three lives, irrevocably altered.

After a moment, I got down on the ground and pulled at the heft of this dead thing and felt it give, finally, and slide out of the soil. The root system was huge; gnarled and ugly like a giant Medusa head. I hauled it up into the back, behind the treeline and hurled it as far as I could into the distance. I expected it to make a large crash when it landed but the ground was damp and the noise was more muted, something like the sound of wet leaves underfoot, or the crush of a child's fragile dream, or the soft gasp of the unbelieving at the sight of the truth finally laid bare.


Bookmark and Share

51 comments:

  1. You're an incredible writer!
    Much love xx

    ReplyDelete
  2. Sometimes, getting your hands dirty is what you need to clear your head. I'm so pleased you're writing again.

    xx

    ReplyDelete
  3. I sold my family home recently and even though I knew I wasn't going to live there any more I kept working on the garden. Pruning, weeding, tidying. Just so I could walk away know I'd done everything I could for it. I finished the job I started. I made that garden. We made that garden. The trees were big now, the cubby house abandoned. I cried so much over that house and garden. Still do....

    ReplyDelete
  4. i like this a lot.
    you're getting there, Kristin.
    keep going. you ARE that woman who pulls out the big root when it has to be done. you're strong.
    you and your children are in my thoughts.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I'm glad you can breathe again, K.xxx

    ReplyDelete
  6. Beautiful analogy. Beautiful writing. Be proud of you and the amazing things you're doing.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Its quite amazing what insights the earth will reveal to you when you least expect it.

    Keep on keepin' on. Xx

    ReplyDelete
  8. A fury at work... I am a gardener by hobby, taught by my father. I have weeded, cut, pruned and hauled out stumps; sweated, cursed and bled. But truly you're the only one I know who can make it sound like poetry. I felt like I was there right alongside you sweating in the rain.

    AV

    ReplyDelete
  9. You give me goosebumps. I've missed your writing. I'm so glad to see you are able to write once more. It's so incredibly cathartic for you.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Beautiful post, it sounds as if it marks the reaching of a milestone in your journey. Sure there are a few more to go. The fact that you tackled the garden head on is very symbolic..I think...

    ReplyDelete
  11. Such a wonderful release, beautiful writing sweety. *hugs* xx

    ReplyDelete
  12. Aaah Kristin, amazing stuff. Really. xx

    ReplyDelete
  13. Stunned. You do this tome me, leave me sitting, staring st the screen, re-reading your posts over and over and over again till they're sunk in my brain. The intricate beauty of the way you lace your words together. the light and shade of it.

    You didn't see. it doesn't matter. the truth, it's like those bulbs that you planted when you first moved in- it's tiny, but it's there, the other stuff is moved out the way, so you can see it now. And now you know it's there, you'll do what needs to be done.

    You're an amazing woman Kristin.

    ReplyDelete
  14. This crackles with the rawness of what you are going through.

    I am so glad that you have this avenue to let some emotions breath.

    ReplyDelete
  15. I'm so glad to see a new post from you. I hope you realise what a determined person you are. It's taking a lot of hard work, but you'll get there.
    xxx

    ReplyDelete
  16. Catharsis... painful but inevitably good for the soul.

    ReplyDelete
  17. You were brave to tackle all that head on. Big hugs to you, lovely and oh so strong lady.

    xxx

    ReplyDelete
  18. Wow! Great imagery there! Excellent writing!

    ReplyDelete
  19. Oh, I felt that in my soul. (((hugs)))

    ReplyDelete
  20. Didn't it feel good to actually DO something? Get your hands in that dirt and work? Yes it was hard. Yes you got dirty. Yes you sweated your butt off. You cried. It was cathartic. It was worth it.

    Great writing.

    Your back, my love.

    ReplyDelete
  21. I was transported into your garden, standing to the side, watching your struggles, overcome with the sense that you will be ok. *HUGS*

    ReplyDelete
  22. I bet the walkway look very hacked, bare, and raw. Give it a season. You'll see this pruning allows the good growth to peek through the brush. Fresh new green will greet you.
    It will be different and ugly and dirty for a while, but those raw brown roots will soon be covered by spring buds and little leaves. Keep the good stuff and don't think twice about throwing out the dead mess.

    ReplyDelete
  23. Beautiful post. So revealing about your inner journey.

    Your stregnth is carrying you through.

    ReplyDelete
  24. It's just so hard - life and the whole butterfly effect thing. keep your head high

    ReplyDelete
  25. Thank you for your beautiful comments, all of you. They lift me. xx

    ReplyDelete
  26. at heart, the nest and gaping wound - a delicate rescue amid enraged eradication. grit juice for sure.

    ReplyDelete
  27. Thank you, I cried, someone who really understands how I feel. You are a great writer what now a book??

    ReplyDelete
  28. I would love to be able to write like this. Stay strong and use your talent to help heal.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Good writing!
    Hope it helps as well...

    ReplyDelete
  30. I love working in the yard. Planting, hacking, clipping- whatever. I don't know why, it just feels good. Too bad I don't own a home anymore.

    Hang in there. In the end, things will be better. I know because they are slowly becoming better for me.

    Hugs!

    ReplyDelete
  31. "or the soft gasp of the unbelieving at the sight of the truth finally laid bare."
    No one ever thinks it will happen to them, until it does. So proud of you, girl. So fucking proud. :)

    ReplyDelete
  32. Now put it all in a pile and have a bonfire ...

    And from the fire a phoenix will arise ...

    You are an incredible soul ....

    " Oz Hugs & Warm Thoughts "

    ReplyDelete
  33. Wonderful, lovely and oh so powerful writing. I sprung tears as I read this...I hope you keep writing, you do it so so well xo

    ReplyDelete
  34. For me the determination to create something new and clean and good out of circumstances filled with grief has seen half of my lawn ripped out to make room for garden in the past few weeks. I wish I could communicate my emotions as eloquently as you do. Thank you

    ReplyDelete
  35. Metaphor works well as your medium. Beautiful writing Kristin.

    ReplyDelete
  36. I'm so pleased to visit and see a post.

    You exerted a lot of energy, and I've no doubt the view has cleared.

    ReplyDelete
  37. So, so powerful ... I am feeling lost, I am feeling sad, I am feeling that I wish I could reach out and give you a hug. It seems the time for a lot of us to be in the same place ... different circumstances, but similar feelings. Lots of love xxx

    ReplyDelete
  38. I'm so very touched by the beautiful comments on this post. Thank you. xx

    ReplyDelete
  39. That was alot of hard work. I can almost feel the exhaustion just reading it. Your determination to clear out the old growth, the tangled mess of the undergrowth...it was so raw like a mirror but now the reflection is clear and refreshed.

    ReplyDelete
  40. A new beginning? Hard, desperate, painful work, but at the end of all of it - clarity for the first time? i hope so my lovely.

    M2Mx

    ReplyDelete
  41. I can't read you without tears these days. As I read I wonder how such beauty can describe such pain. I wonder what your words would sound like without the scuttling angst beneath. I wonder about that. x

    ReplyDelete

Mmmm, comments - nom, nom, nom, nom!

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails