The Hedge

I like boundaries.

I also have three neighbors.

Two of them are elderly. 

They lost control of their yards many years ago and I share a hedge with them.

It towered to 10 feet tall or more in some places.

Its branches consumed about 5 feet of my yard.

It was a messy hedge swarming with invasive species like Japanese Honeysuckle and English Ivy.

I’m not sure why; but, previous generations of landscapers thought it was a good idea to plant English Ivy under trees and shrubs as a ground cover. 

This is a disastrous idea.

English Ivy ultimately kills the trees it climbs.  It also climbs telephone poles and traces along electrical lines sometimes ripping them down. Japanese Honeysuckle does the latter as well.  

The hedge was also home to poison ivy, wild blackberries, and pokeberry.

For years, I was content with just managing this hedge. However, this past December, my taming instincts kicked in and I decided to exercise my legal right to trim it back.

Day after day.

Week after week.

I dipped into its tunnel of arcing branches to cut, clip and saw.

I felt like an explorer. 

With simple hand tools, sheer muscular power, and a commitment to long-term incremental progress, I was imposing my will on a once impenetrable space. 

I felt powerful.

I also felt a sense of loss.

I found a makeshift fort composed of a blue tarp and three pieces of plywood that Dillon had built.

Kid-sized soccer balls, frisbees, and footballs.

Nerf darts. 

This hedge was a time capsule. 

Over the years, Dillon and I errantly tossed, kicked, and slung many things into this hedge. Each time we did, I would dip my hands into it, part its branches cautiously (remember, poison ivy) and submerge my face into its wall of green.

And, when I would do this, I would leave the neat, manicured, exposed, open, space of our yard and enter into a dark, damp, earthy realm of decay where scurrying creatures could be heard but never seen.

The hedge was a threshold.

Through it, we would enter into a place of wild mystery.

I ended that mystery.

Brought sunlight.

I put in a vegetable garden, built three trellises and carved out a place to sit under the shade of a giant Camellia once hidden by a suffocating tangle of Japanese Honeysuckle. Now, a part of the garden that was once avoided is a place to gather or sit alone.

I do the latter often.

I listen to the birds and watch the vegetables grown. 

And, as I do, just a few feet away, in both of my neighbors’ yards, Japanese Honeysuckle and English Ivy and their co-conspirators (poison ivy, wild blackberries, and pokeberry) are pushing up against the invisible wall that my efforts created. They are working their way along its edge looking for cracks and weaknesses. Their roots and runners creep just beneath the surface.

They are waiting for me to give up.

Get distracted.

Turn my attention to something else.

Miss a day or maybe a week. 

And, when I do (and I will), they will come, without mercy or hesitation, to overtake this space, consume what I created, and reclaim what was once their’s.

I will not outlast them.

I know this.

They know this.

I too will grow elderly (I hope). 

I too will lose control of my yard.

And, when I do, this space will once again be enveloped by the wild mystery.

I’m all right with that.

I mean.

I didn’t start out thinking that way.

At first, I considered my interaction with the hedge as a contest.

A test of wills.

In many ways it was.

But, I don’t see it as a contest any more.

I see it as an understanding.

The hedge and I are in a relationship.

I am borrowing space from the lives that make us the hedge.

They are temporarily (and grudgingly) ceding it.

But, it’s not free.

I gotta pay the rent. 

Whenever they breach my invisible wall (which is often), I have to stop whatever else it is that I am doing, grab my clippers, spade and hoe and push them back again.

Boundary maintenance in the garden is a daily chore.

It is in life as well.


PS I asked Google if you could get poison ivy in the winter. You can. And, I  did.


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Thanks. – shawn