Monsters In the Ivy

Over the weekend I developed an incredibly strong (albeit strange and unexpected) respect for weeds. Yes, I said weeds. I would LOVE to have the same quiet strength, robust courage, iron resolve and hearty resilience as say, a towering weed — something that can just sprout up anywhere and thrive no matter the circumstance. But I fear that I am a bit more like a fussy houseplant — high-maintenance with a tendency to wither and wilt when my environment does not quite suit me. The following account is a testimony to this fact…

It has long been established that I am not a fan of yard work or of getting my hands dirty. However, I could not—in good conscience—sit inside the house reading a novel on Sunday while Lee was outside toiling in the yard. I figured that the least I could do was pull a few weeds.

Now, I feel I should mention here that I am incredibly fearful and loathsome of insects. Regular visitors to this site will not find that to be new information. However, before proceeding, I felt it was necessary to establish… just in case in you’re new or had forgotten.

Anyway, after clearing out a few of the flower beds and remaining relatively free from debris and insects, Lee said that there was something in particular that I could do that would be of great help to him. And while I was pleased to be of some service — I was apprehensive as to why he did not wish to do this particular yard-job-thing himself.

It was then that I watched with great horror as he took my garden clippers from me and trudged waaaay into the mid-calf-deep ivy patch that runs along a stone walkway over to the side of the house. He fearlessly crouched down in the dark green tangle to demonstrate for me how to cut the ivy off of and away from the brick on the house, all the while explaining how detrimental the growth was to the continued integrity of the mortar.

“UGH.” I thought, “That ivy patch has GOT to be LOADED with spiders and their impenetrable webs and ants and centipedes and earwigs and mosquitoes and God only knows what other hellish creatures!”

But I knew deep down that I needed to suck it up, put on my game face, and just do it. He needed me to do this. I offered and he had ASKED me to do this incredibly scary thing and so I knew I must. After all, it wasn’t going to kill me. And that which doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, right?

I smiled as he walked away, trying to appear as resilient and strong as the weeds that I’d just removed from the edges of the aforementioned ivy patch. But on the inside I was terrified. With the clippers in my trembling hand, I stood at the edge of the verdant, living, breathing monster trying to summon the courage to go IN.

“What’s the worst that could happen?” I asked myself while imagining a giant, black hairy spider making it’s way up my bare leg. I might get bitten or stung or maaaaaybe come down with an itsy-bitsy case of West Nile, but other than that I will be fine. JUST DO IT.

So I did. I stepped cautiously into the teeming, wicked, leafy mess and cut that ivy back as fast as humanly possible. I did NOT think about what types of demonic incarnations might be feasting on my ankles whilst I did so and I got the job done in record time.

I am relieved to report that I escaped relatively unscathed with only 11 insect bites (at last count) on my ankles, shins and calves and am thus far NOT experiencing any of the symptoms of West Nile or the Plague. A little Benedryl cream and the promise to myself that NEXT time I will dress like a bee keeper when I venture into the ivy patch, I am feeling a bit stronger today. Perhaps I have some weed-like strength within me after all.

Getting Dirty. Coming Clean.

With spring officially in the air, it simply cannot be avoided and as middle-class home owners there is no one around to do it but you. If it doesn’t get done, the neighbors will inevitably complain and start to hate you. The arduous, unavoidable task to which I am referring is springtime yard work. Pulling weeds, raking flower beds, planting, mowing and mulching. And no, I didn’t actually DO all of those things. I just helped out. A little. But somehow I find merely thinking and writing about it to be exhausting.

It is back-breaking, blister-inducing manual labor and if you don’t count housework like washing, scrubbing, sweeping, straightening and polishing — then I don’t do manual labor. It’s not that I think I’m above it. I’m just naturally lazy. Lazy and particularly fond of staying clean, pressed and relatively well-dressed. Yet even as I type this, a red, watery blister is pushing it’s way up through my irritated, over-worked thumb. Undisputable, irrefutable evidence of actual, physical work.

My dad has run his own landscaping business since I was young. Naturally, when my sister and I were big enough to operate push or riding mowers and other types of lawn equipment, Dad tried to put us able-bodied youths to work for him. My sister took to it right away and did this sort of work willingly… mowing, trimming, planting, weeding and the like. But to me, all of it seemed like a lot of hard work. Hard. Dirty. Work. I watched them come home day after hot, steamy, summer day drenched in sweat and coated with bits of grass, mulch, mud and the occasional outbreak of poison ivy. And I decided—rather quickly—Ummm… No. I don’t think so. Not for me.

I could usually be found at one of two places during the months of June, July and August. They were the Dairy Queen and the community pool. Therefore, upon turning 15, it made total and complete sense that I should—by any and all means necessary—work to secure summertime employment at these two fine establishments. So… while attending lifeguard training at the Y, I was getting paid to perfect the signature DQ curl atop cones, sundaes and banana splits. And I couldn’t have been happier.

Apparently, my ambition to perpetuate pleasure and never really break a sweat actually paid off! I was earning real money while working on my tan, sneeking bites from occasional Oreo Blizzard “mistakes” and talking to my friends. Everything worked out wonderfully as long as no one drowned and everyone received the correct amount of change with their Peanut Buster Parfait. Near as I could tell it was a win-win situation.

Sadly, I couldn’t stay a teenager forever. I managed to dodge the “dirty bullet” for awhile with my creative and fun-in-the-sun-vacational vocations but eventually the real world beckoned and I had to answer the call. I may have chosen a career that keeps me clean and seated behind a desk all day but that no longer negates the fact that NOW the yard is THERE. Waiting. And growing. Silently. Planning my Sunday afternoons for me for the rest of my foreseeable, capable existence. And my sister—with the green thumb she apparently inherited—certainly is not going to come and mow it, rake it, spray it, seed it or weed it for me.