Thursday, November 02, 2006

My Yard is Africa

Every novel I have ever read about Africa describes the environment as almost insuppressable. The weather is violent in many directions - there are areas of barren desert, dense tropical rainforest, jungle, wild savannahs with flooding and drought. The vegetation itself, especially in the rainforest, is a tangled mass of vines and branches and roots. The insects, snakes, and other creatures are hearty and dominant. One must be extremely resilient and persistent to try and tame the lands in Africa; those who have lived there for centuries tend to just co-occupy the land rather than tame it. It's the western influence which brings about cities and transforms the land into something it wasn't before.
But if people stopped beating it back with scythes and bulldozers and chainsaws, within a short matter of time, the land would stretch its tendrils up and reclaim the surface for its own. I envision a mass of vines growing amongst the cars and cement structures and lights, engulfing them until they are swallowed up into the earth.
This is my yard, the back yard in particular. It is a little 6000 square foot section of Africa. When we first bought our house, the yard consisted of tall weeds, mud, and assorted junk buried in the dirt. No grass, no buildings, no deck, no fence. Only what grows wild and natural. We added the aforementioned items - tilling the soil, bringing in sod, creating a dog run with that black fabric which would resist weeds, creating a nice deck and fence to delineate recreational spaces from each other. We built a garage and painted it green. There are flowerbeds and walkways with stepping stones.
And now, my yard is reaching up its tendrils to swallow up these things and bring back the loose weeds. The rock-hard dirt has moved my fenceposts so they are no longer straight, pulling the panels of pickets to and fro, up and down. The deck structure leans to a side, and the tree sheds a half ton of pollen and leaves and nuts all year round. The weeds have completely consumed the rocked-in dog run, to where a field of volunteer sunflowers and spiderwort plants loom tall next to my windows. The dead branches which fall from the tree into the lawn get tossed or drug by the dog into the disasterous dog run, creating a makeshift barrier between sod and rock, if such a delineation is even clear anymore. My dog is nature's accomplice in this process, digging random holes, tearing the black fabric with his claws, carving a nest in the matted carpet of tree refuse in his corner. The paint has already begun to peel off the garage wood, and the stepping stones will not remain straight no matter how many times I level them. When the rains come, they come in gullywasher form, pounding the unnatural surfaces into submission. Then the hot sun beats down, removing any layer(s) of varnish on any sorry attempts to maintain wood furniture on the deck. The fabric of the umbrella and chair seats on the patio set are faded from sun, mildewed from standing water, and thinning out. Everything appears to be falling apart. And it's about 3 years old.
I visit my mom and sister, or my husband's sister in Seattle, and their yards are beautifully manicured, tidy and manageable. The insects are tiny and rare, the soil is easy to dig, the landscape is calm, and the grass is soft. No forces of destruction hover on the property line, waiting for them to put away their rakes and shovels and brooms, like they do at my house. Sometimes I wonder if I ought to just give the yard back to nature, as it seems so intent upon reclaiming it. Yet I would never spend time out there in such a condition, so I will continue to toil away in my spare time, hacking at it with my scythe, beating it into submission. But as I do it, I know I'm fighting an uphill battle, going against the grain.

1 comment:

Wholesale Amish Furniture said...

Very well written. Though it sounds hilarious on the face of it, I am sure your situation must be very difficult. Good luck with all the regular work.