Rendered Fat Content


Paul Cézanne: The House with the Cracked Walls (1892–1894)
"My bushes rely upon my heartlessness …"

With the Refurbishment winding down, I found some time on my hands and YardWork needing doing. The winter rains were predicted to begin, after which whatever leaf litter I'd left would become a sodden mess, so I set to play. I do not consider YardWork to belong to the same activity class as labor, or if it does, it falls well within the boundaries of labor of love. It's play, a matter of rearranging orders whether pruning or weeding, it seems to be all about balancing. The weed I do not stoop to pull this time through will remind me what I didn't do the next time I pass through, and will continue to remind me until I decide to do something about it. I keep mental notes about which parts have been begging for some attention. The Refurbish rendered me unavailable to come out to play for months and months. It's reassuring to me that my absence didn't seem to inflict any permanent damage. The yard abides.

I hide my messes behind the garage, around the composter, which is an active mess in continual process.
Either The Muse or I slip back there to discard our kitchen slop into the bin I built to decompose it into compost. The gardens, as a result, retain footprints of the remains of suppers we created twenty years ago. I find half-preserved apricot pits and flicks of tomato skin whenever I cultivate this soil, which needs all the humus I can give it to counteract its natural thinness. I remain a steward here, never the master. I follow what the yard asks for, my deaf ear finally hearing my marching orders. With a tarp I remove a ton of leaves which earlier windstorms had pushed into the corner beneath the towering arborvitae. I deposit those tarp loads into the street. I rake and I cultivate, pulling the last of summer's petunias. The Sweet William's still going strong.

I decide to mow one last time before winter settles in. Mowing beats raking, leaves the lawns almost as clean, and yields better compost. I re-realize that the lawn has grown past her prime and might appreciate some Refurbishment of her own. I see the need to reduce the amount of yard reserved for lawn to open up more ground for garden and the plum trees The Muse has ordered for delivery next Spring. For now, I'll just catalogue the desire. I also want to install sprinklers to conserve water and to replace the crumbling sidewalk alongside the rose garden, which also begs for a final pre-winter pruning to protect it from any scouring winds. I purport to be this yard's friend, but I fall behind my responsibilities sometimes and fail to remember that it needs my presence. It's like playing catch with the kids. It's not the catching or the ball but the playing that's important, just the presence.

We enter now the bleakest season, the one that not only features no baseball to listen to, but no YardWork to engage in. I can, sure, wander around through the Winter, but I dare not disturb much there because it's hibernating until just after President's Day, the start of meteorological Spring here. Until then, Refurbishment ending, I will be plotting my next engagements. I have snowball bushes, grown almost to Jurassic proportions, which need thinning. I have a now enormous ornamental crabapple tree needing pollarding and the sacred apricot needing lovingly radical pruning. I am a softhearted pruner, convinced despite all evidence that I'm wounding rather than encouraging. My bushes rely upon my heartlessness which I cannot always muster when I'm at play. I managed to leave a fairly convincingly clean yard in my wake this time, as long as nobody looks too closely into the Rose Garden, which hosts scaffolding at the moment. Once that scaffolding's gone, I'll engage in the familiar game wherein I crawl along and collect the remains of Autumn from beneath each prickly bush and each bush pricks me in appreciation, and the world thereby retains its balance over another bleakest season.

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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