Friday, June 18, 2010

Alternate Realities

It’s been raining again in Birdland, keeping the yard emerald green, but also turning the new grass waterway Jim and Sean planted into a running stream, and sections of the bean field into puddles. Parts of the yard have become a jungle. Yesterday I hacked away at the Thistle and Burdock surrounding the garden coop, trying to get some morning sun for my tomatoes. I cut the root of the largest Thistle, and used the shovel to carry it to the mulch pile. I’m guessing it weighed at least 10 pounds. This time of year I’m always chasing chores around the yard. I get one plot looking halfway decent, and turn around to admire the bed I cleaned out last week—only to find forest of Mulberry and Hackberry saplings, Goldenrod and Burdock, already crowding my Asters, Day Lilies, and Iris. At times it seems like Birdland is too much for one woman to keep up with.

I’ve been living a funny sort of town and country life—helping Chad, my oldest, with some yard work in town. He has moved to the West Coast, and now will prepare his house to sell, or rent to another set of tenants. His house has a beautiful yard and my mind wanders as I pull Smartweed and Lambs’ Quarters from the rain-softened earth around his Boxwood. I imagine an alternate life in town—a brisk walk to work, to the library, (where my town address would get me a library card!) to a coffee shop, maybe even to the grocery store if I had a sturdy cart. In Birdland, it is easy to talk myself out driving to town, an hour’s round trip, a quarter tank of gas, so I rarely attend community events, lectures, meetings. In town I could ride my bike, the bus, share a ride with someone. The yard here is so small. After thirty minutes I have finished the front yard, all but for trimming the bushes. Maybe on Saturday I’ll tackle the back yard and sleep in town, just to see how I like it. I could wake up and walk downtown for morning coffee, meet a friend.

Is this simply a grass-is-always-greener chain of thought? I don’t think so. I think it’s good to periodically explore your options. I would lose a lot by moving to town. I’ve spent almost twenty-five years in Birdland, putting down strong roots in my rural community. Ellis is about to begin high school. We’ve put a lot of work and money into this house. From my bedroom window I can see the sun set every evening. From my kitchen window I can greet the sun in the morning as it clears the woods while the sky is still a golden red. My children mark the seventh generation of Heaths that has lived on this land. I have my family for neighbors, and just yesterday while walking the dogs I got the chance to meet for the first time a more distant kinswoman, who lives a mile from my door. She guessed who I was by the description of my dogs in these letters and stopped to chat for a moment. My family is scattered all over this county like poppyseeds on a bagel.

Moving to town would mean giving up on goats, cutting down on chickens. And I have this house to think of. I only have to look a mile West of here to see what happens to a house that stands empty for twenty-five years. It loses its soul. A grand white house sits on a hill, somebody’s broken dream, a cupola on top looks eastward with empty eyes. So many saplings have grown up in the yard that the cupola is about all you can see now. Over the years I’ve watched it the paint weather off, the door hang open to let in the rain and wildlife. I think about the waste and how many people need homes. I don’t want that to happen here. Oh, I don’t flatter myself that I’m the only one who would want to live in this house and take care of the place, but it’s not always easy. I’m whining now, but keeping up a smaller yard feels suddenly less demanding, more do-able. Which brings me back to the question that darts and hovers around my head like a Hummingbird around a Trumpet Flower: Could I leave Birdland? I don’t know the answer, but I have come to one important conclusion. Birdland is not a place; it is an attitude and a way of life. Wherever I live, I’ll look for the positives, and I’ll keep Birdland in my heart.

Work in Beauty; Keep the Peace; Blessed Be.

Mary Lucille Hays lives in Birdland near White Heath. She is interested the balance of growth and decay, and finds examples of both in her own back yard. Birdland has a fan page on Facebook.

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