There are a million things to do around my house and corner lot. This summer Molly and I focused on cathartically clearing out decades of debris from our basement and garage and ignored the ragged hedge. It went wild.
Last weekend the weather cooled and I propped the hedge trimmer beside me while I put on my gloves. A man walking by nodded at me in greeting and asked, “You’re going to do all that?” Five hours, lots of scratches and many sore muscles later, I’d finished the whole damn thing. Okay, it’s not perfect – but it’s better.
After 20 years living on this corner, memories are woven through every inch of privet. As I wield the vibrating, noisy weight of the clipper along the length of it, I remember.
There – Tetley dashing under the woody branches to check out a passing dog, me running around to the street to catch him, scooping him up in my arms with apologies.
Here – heaving the scraggly growth aside, clutching my barefoot, half-asleep 8 year old’s hand, pulling her through behind me – taking this weird detour rather than go near the garage where I’d just discovered her father.
That’s awful, isn’t it? I pause, doubting whether I should include this here out of concern for you. I am sorry for the possible shock of it or for the moments you’ll maybe now spend feeling sorrow. But this memory crosses my psyche like a passing cloud, moments of recognition in a tangle of shrubbery. Time does magnificent healing.
I continue trimming.
A bit further down, I find the nest that caused me to abort my attempt at maintenance earlier this summer. A frantic robin flew squawking out at me and I dropped the clippers and retreated in horror, sure I’d just beheaded one of her babies. Stupid thing! Why didn’t it chirp or flap at me before I nicked it? I did find a feather in the trimmer but I don’t think any birds died — although I didn’t peek into the nest to check for skeletons.
Almost to the end is the gap Molly regularly slipped through when she was little – a short-cut to her friends’ house or down to the track across the street. While now overgrown from lack of use, I managed to crawl through dragging the electric cord behind me rather than walk all the way around to get to the outside.
Even with the little step stool and throwing myself across the springy-bulk, I couldn’t quite reach the final stretch of it. But I did what I could. And I thought about the different meanings of ‘hedge’. What I did was enough.