The Last Day of Vacation: How To Weed

posted in: Day In The Life, Family 13
Not our tools, plants, or hat, but a fair representation of things. Image: Wikipedia.



On my last day of vacation, I helped Mom and Mark weed the big, circular raised bed at the front of the driveway. It took about an hour with the three of us going on it. We kids can often be found helping out with that chore when we’re at the cottage; it’s the least we can do. Mom and Mark feed us lasagna and take us for ice cream, they encourage book reading and napping, and there’s a moped up there. We weed.  

It was hot the other day and there’s no shade out there. My stepdad was working pretty quickly because he hates weeds. “Filth!” Mark bellowed, throwing a particularly gnarly one into the big bucket. “These damn weeds! I went over this entire thing not but six weeks ago, Marianne!”

Mark and Mom are master gardeners, which I think means they have a certificate and field questions when anyone decides to plant a shrub. Being a master gardener does not make a person automatically organized and awesome when they go about their gardening, but Mom and Mark just naturally are. Case in point: Mark had divided the bed into “zones” and we each had our own zone to weed. 

“There’s your zone and there’s your zone,” he said. “And Marianne, there’s your kit, and there’s your kit, Maru,” Mark said as we walked over to our worksite. The “kit” he made included a bucket, gardening gloves, a trowel, and a mat or towel to kneel upon. I love my stepdad so much. A weed kit? In a delineated zone? Who does that?? Mark. Mark — otherwise known as The Cap’n — does that. He’s also great because he says things like “Filth!” when pulling pesky weeds.

“Hey, guys,” I said, wiping sweat from my brow, “I have a great idea for a horror movie. It would be called The Gardener or The Weed Killer. I mean, look at these implements. They’re so scary!” I held up a tool Mark had put out in case we needed it, some sort of terrifying small rake-claw.

“This one would work, too,” Mark said, showing me a truly frightening-looking blade. “I call it my scalper. You could do some damage with this.” He stabbed the knife into the dirt and cursed at whatever green bit he vanquished.

Mom brought out some cups of water. A butterfly flew by. I was happy.

Tender At the Bone.

posted in: Day In The Life 0
Bristlecone Pine Forest, CA. Photo: Wikipedia
Bristlecone Pine Forest, CA. Photo: Wikipedia

One forgets gentleness in the city. And you don’t realize it because there’s nothing to compare it to. The city’s hustle and flow, the glass windows of banks and cafes, the wait for lights at street level and trains in tunnels; this environment isn’t hostile unless you want it to be but it would be hard to argue for gentleness on Broadway and 4th St., say, or K. Street and Massachusetts Ave.

Now, my new home at the Kennedy Warren overlooks the Klingle Valley (I’ve probably mentioned this too many times but if you saw it you would see why I do) and this affords an exceptional opportunity to be in nature in an urban environment. I chose well, finally, this year.

I’m writing this outside, inside a tall pine forest. Right now, a forest! and I promise not to look at a computer screen for long; I know better than that. But it was lunchtime, so Claus and I drove far, far up a mountain over Lake Tahoe and found a shaded spot in the trees. We ate a lunch of muesli with fruit and yogurt, apples and Nutella* and we were so hungry it was therefore the best meal I’ve ever had, of course.

(Oh, please, please forgive me for being obnoxious, but I have never had the occasion to use the French term en plein air and this is my chance. We ate en plein air!)

We finished and now we’re just sitting here, breathing, noticing how the wind through the trees sounds just like ocean tide. When we close our eyes we are amazed; if you only heard a recording of this sound, you couldn’t possibly tell the difference between wind in trees and oceans.

I wear a Fair Isle sweater over my romper. My feet are up on the crate that contains our dinner tonight. Silence. Green. Blue. Mountains with snow and a big, fat, sapphire glittering thousands of feet below it. Gentleness is a word that works, but “tender” might even do.

I grew up on a farm, seven miles out of a town of 5,000 people.

You could argue that nature is in my blood, that this tender moment should awaken a yen in me to abandon city life and get back to the garden. Nah. I’m a city dweller; I’ve spent more years in tall buildings than in treehouses. This trip is a pause and an important one, just as a country mouse should visit some metropolis from time to time for a pause of a different kind, look up at homes in the sky, down at miles and miles of sidewalk, women in smart shoes clipping along to meet for dinner at the best French place.

This was the right idea. Anxiety about email checking dogs me, but trees are so much bigger, so much stronger than emails.

*I mentioned Claus is German, right?