Posted by: emjb | October 6, 2008

Managing a corner of chaos

I guess I’m old, because I’m obsessed with the state of my yard. Or maybe in these times of turmoil, when a senile old man and his gormless wink-prone fembot monkey still have a shot at the presidency, when Wall Street has traded itself into a very expensive corner and we are commanded to bend over and grab our collective ankles as the only cure, I need something small and relatively simple to concentrate on.

Certainly it hasn’t been my blog, considering this is my first update since April.

But the truth is, my life has been fairly turmoil-y in ways that didn’t translate to pithy Web posts, or even pithier Twitterings, so I couldn’t bring myself to post.

My son was diagnosed with a mild form of hypotonia and hyperflexibility, neither of which is really more than a minor inconvenience, as disabilities go…some physical and speech therapy, and he’ll be perfectly fine, more than likely. He’ll never be drafted, and that doesn’t break my heart, but he will have a difficult time if he wants to be athletic at all…and that kind of does. Neither Matt nor I were ever good at sports, but we both have siblings who were talented in that area. My sister played basketball, my brother was drafted as a minor league baseball pitcher, my other brother was a great tennis player. On Matt’s side, he has a marathon running/dancing/aerobics instructor sister and a brother who used to do gymnastics and now goes rock climbing.

So there was always a chance Nathan would have talents or desires in that direction, and big as he looked to be, he might have been able to pursue them. Still might…it’s just that he’s going to have a harder time of it. And I hate for him to get saddled with that. As it is now, it’s hard to explain to teachers and others that the reason he’s not potty trained is that he’s had to struggle with being able to manage his clothes, that climbing stepstools is hard when your ankles won’t stay steady, that despite being the size of a five year old, he really is a nearly-three-year old with a muscular disability that makes him slow, and clumsy. It hurts to think that someone might look down on my bright joyful kid because of all this. I worry about school, about teasing and about teachers who won’t get it. I worry about all of that putting a dent in his happiness, because he is so happy, so much of the time.

So, gardening. Gardening is a little attempt at order in the midst of this chaos, and I find myself thinking about it more than I ever would have believed. With the economy like it is, our rent house feels fairly permanent for a while, so maybe that’s it too. But it’s also that I have a completely irrational affection for this battered little tract house, which was built the year I was born, which has had owners who loved it and others who abused it, but which is quiet and cozy and mostly big enough for what we need.

So after a few weeks of buying tools here and there, taking a swipe at hedges and (giant) crepe myrtles out front, I tackled the sad weed-filled flower bed in the front yard. I will be so sore tomorrow. I pulled up acres of dead monkey grass and disentangled a crazed rose bush locked in a death battle with some english ivy and a random tree sapling.  I found beer bottle caps, broken glass, and an old hose nozzle. I also found an entire brick garden path, buried under years of silt and running the length of the bed. And a tiny sprig of lamb’s ear lost and alone by itself outside the bed, a refugee and sole survivor from some earlier landscape attempt. The whole dang bed is infested with the ivy, though, so it’s going to be a constant battle to keep it from taking over.

Tomorrow I go back to add the compost and my bedding plants, which my mother in law helped me pick out; a rosemary bush, snapdragons, and a few other little colorful, hardy things. Then I’ll pretty much just pick occasional weeds till spring.

I’m already thinking bigger, about the back yard, which is a monstrous task. Old fence debris, an unbelievable amount of shattered beer bottle glass (though I found a Jose Cuervo bottle today), weird dips and holes, and a fence held together with chicken wire and dead (we hope) poison ivy runners.  It’s incredibly demoralizing to think of tackling it all, but oddly satisfying to tackle it in little pieces. Perhaps because the cause and effect is so much simpler. I don’t know what random set of genetic soup gave Nathan his problem, nor what if anything could have prevented it. Easier to deal with runaway ivy or an unhappy bit of bermuda grass, to feel the breeze on your face and to know that this little corner of chaos has been tamed.

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