Recently I learned a lesson from an overgrown shrub in my yard.
The Thing was hideous. It reminded me of cancer, growing out of control with flowers on top of vines on top of separate weeds that had grown into small trees. Kalista, reading this entry as I write it, lets out a dismal “aw” each time she thinks of it. There’s a sprig of flowers from the thing on my desk she brought inside a few days before its “haircut.”
Little does she know, it was her reference to the bush as “a big tree” a few nights prior that spurred me to action.
But I’m digressing already. As stated and despite her disapproval, there is a lesson I learned from the bush.
Cutting The Thing down to size was a project two years in the making. When we moved in, it – along with all of the bushes in the back yard – needed pruning. But so did the bushes in the front yard and along the side of the house facing the driveway, which faces the road and every car and pedestrian traveling by. It seemed each time I trimmed those bushes I decided I was sick of trimming bushes and the backyard bushes could wait because no one really saw those bushes. So they were free to grow. And grow. And grow …
Finally it reached a point where two of the shrubs in the back yard became so big that they were visible from the road. They were also on the verge of damaging the chain link fence from which they were planted roughly 8 inches. They had to be cut; it made sense to take the cancerous mass out of my otherwise pristine back yard while I was back there.
Armed with my grandfather electric hedge clippers from about 1960 and a set of heavy duty hedge shears that might have actually been manufactured to cut titanium, I finished the first two shrubs with mild resistance. The great thing about tools made 50 years ago is they aren’t stifled by guards and other safety features that are only beneficial to blind idiots with 10 broken fingers.
“How in the Hell am I going to do this?” I kept asking myself of The Thing. “It’s damn near 10 feet tall, has branches three inches thick and is probably home to several bee and wasp nests.”
I also thought of snakes during these gazes of The Thing. A friend who thinks she knows everything once told me venomous feetless lizards love to hang out underneath rose bushes; if they like rose bushes, they probably love The Thing.
“Maybe I’ll just call a landscaping crew,” I thought, more than once.
At the completion of the first two shrubs, I went inside my house, cracked a Sam’s Choice diet cola and contemplated a course of action. But who was I kidding – only pansies and old people hire someone else to take care of their yard. I’d take my home security system’s keychain remote out with me so if I did get bit by a snake or stung by swarm of bees or accosted by a homeless lesbian living under the shrub, I could hit the panic button to call for help.
It was time for action.
I stood before The Thing with my grandfather’s hedge clippers. I felt like a midget about to take on a grizzly bear with a butter knife. Perhaps my best course of action was to go for the big branches with the bolt cutter/shears first. Nonsense – I couldn’t even access the big branches because of The Thing’s thick force field of kudzu vine and flower-covered minions just as annoying.
I fired up the electric clippers and let it rip. Branch after branch, flower after flower, vine after vine and scrap plant after scrap plant, I attacked one end of The Thing. I stopped only to grab the shears to snip the sturdier branches that wouldn’t fit in the teeth of the hedge clipper. Then I went for the other side. Then the top.
Before I knew it, I could see the roots of The Thing. Turns out three shrubs actually comprised The Thing – they were just so close together and had gotten so huge they only looked like one. This revelation made the job particularly less intimidating.
About an hour later, The Thing had been reduced to three semi-neatly-pruned shrubs about 4 feet high. My grandfather’s hedge trimmer was a little warm but ran like it could do two more jobs just like it. I hadn’t been attacked by bees, snakes or homeless lesbians. The job had been a success.
A feeling of accomplishment swept over me. If there had been a news crew around to interview me, I would have told them I wake up in the morning and piss excellence. After all, I’d cast my fears and dread aside and completed the task with – well, not ease, but I completed the task nonetheless.
Is this not, at least a little bit, a microcosm of life? How often do we shrink from something we declare difficult or even impossible only to find out it wasn’t as tough as we once thought? Wouldn’t it be easier if we got the job done before it spiraled out of control? Am I the only person with the tendency to blow things out of proportion without even trying? Does anyone know how to program a Direct TV remote?
I deemed my life over when I was going to be a father. Now I couldn’t imagine living without my daughter. When I left the newspaper business – the only field in which I thought I’d ever work – rather abruptly, I thought for sure I’d lose my house, die and my daughter would be turned over to the authorities. Now I make more money and have a future and an employer of which I am not ashamed.
There are other examples, too, as well as overgrown hedges that still remain in my life. I suppose we all have both.
The key is to start. Start somewhere, anywhere. Grab onto whatever you can clutch and start chopping. And digging. And clawing.
Before you know it, you’ll be through the first layer.
Then the second …
Then the third …
… and so on.