of plants and progeny

This afternoon found me basking in the sunshine in our front yard and bonding with what is perhaps my least favorite yard tool—the hedge shears.

On a side note, I ought to add that perhaps its status as my least favorite yard tool is because it is the only yard tool over which I have sole responsibility.  The last time I mowed the lawn—five years ago—I ended up with blisters on both palms and my arms vibrating for the next two hours.  My husband declared me too wimpy to do yard work and said he’d just do it all himself.  Though he did admit that he doesn’t half mind the excuse of something to do out of the house now that we have kids.  At any rate, I retained authority over the hedge shears due to his proclaimed incompetence at the task.  I don’t doubt his incompetence at hedge trimming (it’s one of those finicky tasks that better suits my personality), but I do harbor a sneaking suspicion that if we ever came into possession of an electric hedge trimmer, his competence level might suddenly increase to acceptable levels in his eyes.

House with big bushes

Here’s a shot of the front of our cute little first home, taken when we first saw it. The bushes were neatly trimmed, but distinctly awkward in proportion–and the following spring they tried to overtake the front window. And did I mention that it took us FOUR YEARS to get the front lawn to grow decently again?

At any rate, there I labored, giant scissors in hand, struggling to trim our bushes—yet again—to something slightly less than they were last year.  You see, we live in a 50-year-old home, built in the Era of Evergreens.  In our last home, the front evergreen bushes were allowed to gradually overtake the front of the house.  In our current house, the bushes on the side threaten to devour the walkway, while those in the front have melded into one giant lump of amorphous bushiness.  My goal is to prevent them from taking over the world before we have a chance to figure out what to do with them—or without them, as the case may be.

Whilst I trimmed away, my older two kids dashed to and fro, rumbling two-legged garbage trucks gathering up armloads of trimmings and depositing them in the garbage.  The proximity of the two tasks—hedge-trimming and child-watching—led me to drawing comparisons.

Consider: Landscaping.  Most people have a general notion that every house needs some landscaping, that landscaping is good and right.  You rarely take much note of someone’s landscaping, though, unless it is remarkably unruly or remarkably attractive.  As for your own landscaping, while you might have brief moments of quiet satisfaction regarding it, for the most part you are caught up in its maintenance.  And that maintenance is perpetual.  If you’re not mowing your lawn or pulling weeds from it, you’re seeding a barren patch, watering, edging, or treating for grubs.  You’re trimming bushes, dead-heading flowers, replacing mulch, and pulling still more weeds.  If you happen to let up for just a moment—spending a week away, perhaps, or devoting your weekend to something more enjoyable—you return to find your yard gone mad.  As I vigorously hacked at our bushes, I found myself muttering, “If you give them an inch…”

And then there’s children.  Most people have a general notion that everyone should have some, that having children is a good idea.  Most people don’t take much note of others’ kids unless they are remarkably unruly or remarkably attractive.  And as for your own children, while you might have brief moments of quiet satisfaction regarding them, for the most part you are caught up in their maintenance.  And that maintenance is perpetual.  Sounding eerily familiar?

Never in my life had I thought to compare my children to my front hedge, but there it is folks, irrefutably in print.  And I’ll bet you didn’t think I’d make a good case for the similarity. 

At any rate, all this leads me to thinking yet again that the most difficult part of life is that there is no “off” button, not even a “pause” switch.  Because whether it’s bushes or babies, if you take the slightest break, you will pay for it with sweat and tears, if not blood, for some time to come.  And that, my friends, is why life is exhausting.  Perhaps my children will perform more self-maintenance with age (one can hope?), but the front yard will never give me a break.

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