“My husband and I never considered divorce – murder perhaps, but not divorce.” – Dr. Joyce Brothers
Our front yard looks like a tornado blew through – the signs of destruction are everywhere. Huge piles of holly limbs, branches and other shrubbery fill the area between the sidewalk and the street, forming a berm so high you can barely see over it.
Where stately old holly trees and large mature shrubbery once stood, now there are only barren jagged stumps. The welcoming canopy that used to soften the height of our columns and muffle the size of our house is gone – replaced by a barren wasteland that screams, “This old house needs to be painted, and caulked and patched up and fixed - Now!”
It was not an act of God that did all this; it was Mr. Clark. In a matter of only a few hours, my husband and his tiny electric chain saw managed to ruin 20-plus years of carefully tended front yard neglect – a look I worked hard to achieve and was quite fond of.
I am from Colorado, where things don’t grow the way they do here. It is much drier there and the winters are harsh. In Colorado, unless you’re a farmer battling an invasive weed, you don’t pull it up or cut it back; you just let it be. This is a place where people actually plant privet — on purpose. Moving from a lean landscape like that to Georgia’s verdant green amazed me and 22 years later, I am still not used to the lushness that surrounds me.
I can’t believe I cut gardenias anytime I want from the bushes that thrive in my yard and bring huge bouquets of hydrangeas inside all summer long. And, I’ve never gotten used to the sight of my camellia bushes covered with blooms — in February!
Before moving to Georgia, I had no idea so many different kinds of birds could nest in one yard and the only Cardinals I’d seen in the winter were on Christmas cards.
For these and other reasons, I’m not a fan of the neatly trimmed landscape. Give me wild, overgrown and slightly un-kept. Let me see butterflies flitting from flower to flower, even if some of those flowers are weeds. And let me hear the birds sing, even if some of them nest in holes they’ve pecked in our columns and eaves.
Don’t look for me with a rake as soon as the first fall colors appear; and don’t expect to hear my leaf blower, blowing hour after hour, as the battle with leaves goes on and on, until that final leaf falls. I am not a fan of the neatly kept lawn; and, to be brutally honest, the sight of a perfectly edged lawn creeps me out – like, that is SO not what Mother Nature intended when she created grass.
I’m not being judgmental; I’m just saying there are different styles of yard management and mine errs in the direction of “less is more.” Why spend all that time trying to rein in nature? Why not just enjoy her as she is?
Mr. Clark has been talking about taking down those holly trees and cutting back those unruly old shrubs for years. And for years I’ve been putting him off, with things like, “Not this year, maybe next…” or “You don’t really have time for a project like that…”
This year his insistence became more and more firm and so, in a rare move for me, I gave in. Part of me felt like, “If he really feels this strongly about it…..” and part of me felt like, “Is this really a marital fight worth taking on?”
It turns out, it was. As soon as the first holly tree came down, I was devastated. By the time he hacked the first big old shrub nearly to the ground, I was in tears.
“Does this look like an improvement to you?” I cried.
“Yes, it does!” was his reply. And so he went on to take down the second holly tree and hack down the other old shrub, dragging their dead carcasses to the curb like a victorious hunter.
The birds who used to spend their days in those holly trees flitted from the phone line to the remaining bushes, calling frantically – their once well-sheltered feeders either gone or standing brazenly out in the open, as if to say, “Hey, Mr. Hawk! Come get me!”
My tears continued and when night fell it made me very sad to see so many of the birds I used to see at my holly tree feeders flitting for shelter in the pile of dead holly limbs by the street…Mr. Clark and I had a big fight that night and aren’t quite done being “too quiet” with each other yet.
Marriage is hard sometimes because (at least between Mr. Clark and me) it’s never the big stuff that matters – it’s the little things like holly trees and shrubbery. Judith Viorst said, “One advantage of marriage is that, when you fall out of love…it keeps you together until you fall in again.”
And, she’s right. Spring will come and in no time, those jagged stumps will start sprouting again…
Lorin Sinn-Clark is a writer for the Barrow Journal. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.