“And on these barren rocks, with fern and heath,
And juniper and thistle, sprinkled o'er,
Fixing his downcast eye, he many an hour
A morbid pleasure nourished, tracing here
An emblem of his own unfruitful life…”
- William Wordsworth, from Left Upon a Seat in a Yew Tree...
There is a fine line between passion and obsession – like the difference between a lover and a stalker. So when does a passion for gardening cross over into an obsession? For me, it crosses the line when I feel this overpowering compulsion to use a chain saw.
It was warm the other day, high 70s with the clear bright moist breeze of winter. I intended to cut down this small failed Allepo pine in the front yard. Six hours later, unable to start the chainsaw, I’d trimmed some old junipers adjacent to the driveway. The junipers were being engulfed in slow motion by that noxious red apple ground cover, serving as an emblem of my own unfruitful life, slowly being engulfed by the uninspiring quotidian, and the entropic forces of age.
I was using a Felco with a missing spring, and the honking yard-long green heavy-duty clippers that must weigh in at about 200 lbs. I stopped often, sat often, brushed off sleeping spiders most often of all. But here’s the fun part. Tech Support Guy has installed an infrared sensing system across the driveway that beeps the first notes of Beethoven’s Fifth in both our living room and Mother’s room. It’s a good way to notice the postman or meter-reader, or unannounced guest.
Funny story. Turns out the junipers being cleaned up surround the beeping sensor. You can see the short green post at the foot of the juniper. Turns out the metal clippers I lugged back and forth and around and around set off the sensor and was beeping the crap out of the system to the collective annoyance of Tech Support Guy, Mother, Sandy-the-Good-Boy, and miscellaneous paranoid and/or fearless cats. What’s worse, is that this isn’t the first time I’ve managed to trigger numerous alarums (!) which, unconsciously (!) remind my roommates that while they’re sittin’ on their collective sedentary backsides that somebody else is up and about.
My ocd led me to a task different from that which I’d first planned. That dead pine tree is still leaning there at the foot of the driveway, mutely reminding me of my gardening faults and failures every time I journey out or back home. But I don’t morbidly trouble over all the unfinished tasks, even when I don’t accomplish what I started out to do. I have cleared the underbrush from the junipers and they look happier than they’ve been in years. And, I’ll get to that dead pine tree sooner or later. Either me, or the ubiquitous red apple…