Sunday, December 09, 2007

Battling Nature

[some thoughts evoked by the Sunday Scribblings prompt "competition"]

I don't have killer instinct. Well, I always wanted to beat my younger brother at board games. And I refused to lose on purpose to ANYONE, even when my mother implied that might be a nice thing to do when I was teaching my high school boyfriend to play backgammon.

But I always gained more pleasure from playing a game than from winning one. I was only OK at sports. In individual sports, I just didn't care enough, couldn't whip myself into making it more important for me to win than to just be done with the tennis game or the 800-yard track event. It was easier to make winning important when I played on the volleyball team, because to mess up or give up was to let down my fellow teammates. But winning wasn't important enough for me to work at the drills that would have made winning come just that much easier.

Then every once in a while, every so many years, I get the desire to kill something. Something in particular. I want to wipe it from the face of the earth. So I suit up to do battle.

Behind the house is a small flat area then a drop-off into the woods. The line between "yard" and "wild" back there gets more blurry every year. We let the ferns come up, and they are pretty and sturdy and grow where grass wouldn't take anyway. The are some wildflowers that have crept in there too, and that's OK with me.

And then there is The Vine. I don't know what this thing is, but it is killer. Literally. It winds itself around bushes and trees and then it squeezes and before you know it, the bush is dead and the tree has a dead limb. It grabbed hold of a small tree (a weed tree, granted, but still!) and pulled it over so hard that it finally snapped. This thing is evil.

Eventually I can no longer ignore it trying to tear down the trees that anchor the hill sloping down into the woods and throw down the gauntlet. Well, actually, I put on heavy jeans and sturdy boots and a long-sleeved top, and I put on my gauntlets (in the guise of leather work gloves). I take with me clippers and a folding pruning saw and I head into the lair of the beast.

I start by unwinding anything I can from the trees, bushes and fencing at the edge of the yard. Then I cut off and unwind more. And more. And what I cut goes into a trash barrel. I am afraid to leave it on the ground – afraid it is descended from the Hydra and will re-grow vines from every cut. Even when I had a compost pile I was afraid that it wouldn't rot there and would instead spring ever more robust from the nutrients there.

And then I step over the edge. With feet anchored as best as I can, I start pulling on the nearest piece of vine. It has roots all along its edge and as I pull, other trees and bushes in the area shake as the vine's more remote tendrils hold tight to its hostages. I use the clippers again and again, and I wonder again where this beast came from.

By now I usually need a break, a drink of water, a wipe of the face. Then I dive in again, by now giving up on the cut-and-bag technique and throwing the pieces further down the hill, possibly giving the evil vine more places to sprout, root, and anchor. More places from which to stage its takeover of the world.

I work my way along the hillside, parallel to the house, trying to draw a line, establish some boundaries. I wear myself out, and eventually, I pack it in for the day, the edge of the yard cleared, the closest trees freed. But as I look down the hill, I see the vine in a heavy curtain from the large oak tree down the slope, some of the tendrils as thick around as a wrist. I think that it probably holds onto that tree so tightly that I could climb up, as the prince scaled the tower using Rapunzel's hair. But that is 20 yards down the hill, and there is a lot more vine between it and me and I am worn out.

I sigh, and go clean my clippers. I drag the vine clippings to the garage to await trash pickup day. And with that my killer instinct is gone. I am defeated – for today, anyway.


June said...

You had me laughing out loud here as I recognized myself. Then, after the laughter subsided, thought on the matter in a more anthropological way. Thanks for the stimulation 2X.

sister AE said...

Thanks, June. I wish I could say I made this up...

Robin said...

I'm cracking up over here, remembering my father's annual Battle of the Sumac each spring. Oh how he used to curse those damn trees as they choked out the rest...

I live in a city apartment now, but we do have our own smaller version of your killer vine - what a miserable excuse for a plant.

sister AE said...

Hi, Robin.
I'm just glad I don't live in the southern US where they have kudzu.

Stacy said...

Funny, your comment, because your vine reminded me so much of kudzu!

I have a grapevine in my backyard that drives me batty.

And thanks for your heads up about my post ----- as soon as I read your note, I realized what I had done. I've fixed it!

sister AE said...

I even looked up kudzu when I started battling this thing, just to make sure! And you're welcome.