Sunday, December 16, 2012

building bridges

A few weeks back I dug holes in the earth and planted flower bulbs. Hidden inside the bulbs are yellow and orange daffodils and purple and white crocus. As each bulb disappeared, smoothed over with dirt, a hopefulness arose.

The “yard” around my cabin when I moved in was simply acres of overgrown farm fields abutting against this structure set down in its midst. With a scythe and reel mower I chopped away at the knee-high grass and wildflowers. The mowing took so much time in May and June and July that I wondered when I would ever get to other chores. This year, the second year, I pushed the lawn out a bit, still with the scythe and reel mower, which was so much easier to use after I replaced the two small “C” rings that keep the mower's handle from falling off. (I had lost the rings the first summer, making do, as it were, with spare wire.)


All summer, I mowed around five piles of moldy old scrap wood and in November burned four of those piles. As I pushed the yard outward, I discovered and discarded mounds of deteriorating blue tarp, clear plastic water bottles, a few rusty beer cans, and what might best be called the flotsam and jetsam of human life. And I went out into the overgrown fields, bringing back nine trees to transplant around the house—one birch, five spruce, three serviceberries. The birch, moved in April, seems to have taken, but the serviceberries are questionable. The spruce, just moved in November, have so far held their own against some pretty powerful northwest winds.

This morning, a light rain dampens the few splotches of snow dotting the yard. In the fields, the grasses lie low lorded over by skeletons of goldenrod. It is easier to traipse about the fields when there is snow on the ground, as long as you’re in snowshoes, and I did this a week or so ago, finding a stand of young birch just beyond a patch of old, broken-down apple trees. Nearby, at the end of a deer trail, there is a plot of white pine. The mother pine is as big as a house and saplings of all sizes surround. In the spring, I will transplant one of those saplings, maybe two, to the south edge of the yard and bring in another birch or two. I will move wild roses to a bed along the porch’s west side. Towards the head of the drive there is a viburnum tucked back in the brush, on the edge of the gully, and it is sending up shoots which I hope to transplant along the south side of the new carport. In the fields, red-twig dogwood abounds, and the other day I uncovered one that is just beyond the yard on the cabin’s north side. With hedge clippers I cleared around it and in the spring will be mowing that much farther out. I can see the dogwood from the window above the kitchen sink and admire its dashes of red amid the brown and grey, muted green, tired wheat.

Red-twig dogwood.

Every day I stumble forward, stumble back, make infinite mistakes and maybe, just maybe, get a few things right. With any luck, bright colors, once buried, come forth.

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