Yes, it's true.
Somewhere, down in the lines of code that make up who I am, carefully stirred amongst generations and generations of my ancestry, someone dropped a part. Cracked an egg. Fed the last piece of the puzzle to the family dog.
I speak of yardwork.
My mamaw--my father's mother--she could grow anything. I swear, the woman could put rocks in pots and water them, and before long, she'd be taking pieces of plants to neighbors because her living room looked like a botanical experiment gone awry. My mom's family are farmers, for goodness sake. And while chickens don't usually count as vegetable matter, the very fact that they cut a living out of valley in northwest Arkansas should stand as clear evidence that they and the land lived in peace and harmony.
I'm at war with my live oak trees.
Flashback seven years ago. I'm house hunting with Carrie, my beautiful (and also organically inept) wife. What do we look for? No, not the luxurious master bathroom so evident in track housing in North Texas. Not a stable, termite-less foundation. Not even an attic you could move around in to change a filter in the AC.
We wanted trees.
Not mini Home-Depot-purchased play-trees that contractors plant with every new home to assuage some environmental regulation. No. Big-honkin' defy-Texas-heat trees. And we got 'em. Three. Ginormous. Huge-antic. Umbrella. Trees.
Now, let me explain to you what they mean when they label these particular trees "live oaks". By "live", they mean living. By living, they mean intelligent. Oh, yes. The trees watch us. Not in some friendly "we love you" way. No, no. They watch us. When we least suspect it.
Let me illustrate.
Once a quarter, I feel guilty enough that I'm the only unretired green-thumb-certified ex-pro-gardener on my block, and so I drag out a truckload of well-battered lawn tools to begin my battle:
- 5 horsepower Murray mulching Mower (sometimes even starts).
- Weed eater (change cord every five minutes).
- Edger (shrieks like a cat in the washer).
- Hedge trimmers (actually, I think these work)
- Clippers (missing a spring and are too dull to cut wet spaghetti)
- Gloves (check for spiders)
- Rake (screw loose; head randomly spins or detaches for fun)
- Extendable tree-pole saw (with trick "bendy" saw head)
- Leaf blower - vac (permanently "on"; plug in and chase)
And thus begins the dance.
I mow. I blow. I cut. I suck. I scoop. I bend. I trim. Usually for four or five hours, as time distorts itself, speeding up to be sure I never have time to do everything in one day. I ignore the heat. I fight off rabid fire ants. I pay great attention to detail!
Somewhere, as the sun is setting over the California coast, and I am returning my arsenal to a tangled jumble of extension cords in my garage, my yard looks as good as it will look. Which is to say, if you took a picture of our Cul-de-Sac, our yard is the one which makes me understand just a bit of how homeowners associations came to be. Despite my best efforts, I still go to bed fearing that tomorrow, the President will fly over and declare our home a national disaster area. At least then, maybe I'd get some federal funding.
And there, in the quiet still of the night, when my body is reminding me that it's tired of maintaining an active metabolism...that's when they strike.
I remind you, they are named "live oak trees". They are cunning. Cleverest of all trees, the live oak abides by no rules of seasonal leaf-shedding. No! It cannot be! They are the non-conformists of the aboreal world. Green-year round, they shed their small thick leaves only when they wish.
And their shedding dreams are no more fulfilled than when my lawn is clean and free of leaves. The earthy scent of freshly-raked soil; the aroma of trimmed grass; the acrid lingering reminder of an electric leaf blower with a short--this combination, this chemical conconction of my efforts triggers something primal and vicious in my live oak trees.
And that is when they strike.
With the new day, I arise to see the fruits of my efforts, which were unobservable in the darkness under which my labors ceased. I open my front door, peering through my frame-of-a storm-door (by product of a rock and a malicious weed-eater)...
...onto a yard of leaves. No, that is unfair. It's not always leaves. I misspeak of the tree. No, no. In the fall, it adds a generous mix of non-rakeable acorns. In the spring, it's the little snaky strings of tree-poop, which layer our yard like new-fallen yellow snow (God bless Claritin). In the winter, it adds sticks and twigs to the mix for extra fiber.
They win. I give up. The battle goes to the trees. No, I will continue my efforts. A neighbor once shamed me by taping a sign to my door: "Take pride in were you live". Yes, just like that, spelling and all. And I have learned! I may not be talented, but let that not stop me! Next quarter, I will again arm myself! I will fight the dirt and the flora.
I will lose.
But that's alright.
I've made a deal with the sprinkler.
Next summer...the trees are done for.