Installment One: In Which I Vanquished the Hollies
It began simply enough. Sometime in May I remembered I had a yard. And it looked like crap. Several years of neglect while I took care of Aunt Ellen, then my torn meniscus, had taken their toll. The weeds were doing well. And not much else.
Church had begun to lose me too, and I was feeling ambivalent about being there. I know I’m not supposed to be all judgey. But the truth is our new minister was, well, I don’t know. All I know is I walked out of church feeling like I had spent a lot of time driving and an hour of sitting for nothing. I tried. I did. For a year and a half. Yet I was feeling unmoored, knowing I needed something. But what?
Anyway, back to the important thing: the yard. I was suddenly embarrassed to be seen coming out of the weed-lined driveway. That and the holly bushes beside the steps to my front porch had all but engulfed the first two stairs and threatened bodily harm every time anyone entered or departed from my home, i.e., me.
As I had run out of excuses, I figured I had better get at the holly before it got at me. I got up early and got out the hedge trimmer. What I did not count on was having to scare up an electric cord. That took a few extra minutes of my life and left me cursing the painter from last summer whom I know in my black heart took at least one of my good electric cords, maybe two. But finally, I got my act together and the trimming began. It took a bit of cutting and a bit of standing back to make sure the shapes and height of the two bushes were the same. Then it took some more cutting and some more standing. In the end, I won out over Mother Nature and managed fairly decent matching round shrubs.
The hardest part was the raking of the holly trimmings. That felt like work. A stroke of brilliance hit me and I decided to rake them under the adjacent Rose of Sharon and Crepe Myrtles to become their mulch for the summer. Yeah, that’s good. Let’s go with that story.
Did you know that hollies can be trees, and that left to their own devices some holly varieties can grow upwards of forty-five feet high and defeat Godzilla all by themselves? Hollies are drought and heat tolerant. They grow in sun or part shade and make great hedges. They are also long-lived and under the right conditions can outlive a human by a couple hundred years. Not only that, you can cut them back to practically a stump, and as long as they have a few branches left, they will come back. That’s a blessing when you don’t trim as beautifully as I did that morning. Oh, and the leaves will stick you.
I got to thinking about hollies. They’ve been around a long time. And my hollies, they come from those ancient hollies. All hollies, growing in an unbroken chain for thousands of years. When you run into them, they attack you. But when you plant them under a window, they protect you. There’s poetry in that.
Things went so well with the hollies that now the rest of the front yard looked even worse. So, the next Sunday, the Sunday before Memorial Day, I resolved to tackle the mess. That was the first Sunday I realized I was at last hanging out with God.