Tuesday, July 22, 2014

"We plan and God laughs"

     "Maybe," my wife said, "you should wait until after they work on the pipes. They might tear up the sidewalk."
      The Village of Northbrook was about to begin work on the water mains on our block.
      We were on our knees, pulling weeds in the strip of earth between the grass and the sidewalk in front of our house.
      I pondered this suggestion, torn, eager to get a strip of edging down, then fill the front bed with mulch. As a reward, for pulling all those weeds up. We had really cleaned up the front bed nicely.
     The bed was under our struggling spirea. To the left of our front walk, a massive hedge of vanhoutte spirea, turning to a glorious cascade of white in the spring. To the right, a dinky, devastated remnant I keep reinforcing with more spirea, which keep dying. I'm not sure why. The soil. The light.  
      "I only have one goal in life," I told my wife, recently. "I want that spirea hedge to grow."
     And it did. This year, finally, to my delight, it progressed. Bushes that had been languid stirred, perked up -- my wife credits her cutting them way back last autumn. The vinca ground cover that we planted around the spirea also began to take hold, a line of defense against future weeds. Planning ahead. 
     Time, I felt, for a nice black edging, and mulch of some sort, to further keep down the weeds. Hit 'em with all we've got. My wife and fell to our knees and busied ourselves, happily toiling. Put down the edging or not? 
     "I'll wait and see what they do," I said.
     Enter the Village of Northbook.
     Something about the incoming water pipes. The new water tower puts too much pressure—or not enough—so they're replacing the mains. Which is a cruel joke, since it's the drainage on our street that's horrendous. I've considered buying a canoe. 
      Give the workers credit. They have tried, when implanting this enormous steel trenching support in our front yard, directly over where the sidewalk use to be, to save the spirea. The treads of their machinery brush but do not crush them, not yet anyway. The vinca though are gone, true--stout little oval leaved warriors, just starting to spread out and explore, to live their low-lying lives. And a few of the spirea do seem to have vanished. 
      This is the odd part. I took it all with ... equanimity. No grief. No marching to Village Hall, next door, pounding my fist on the counter. "I have been wronged!" One does not garden, one does not presume to nurture nature, without developing a farmer's hardy composure. Stuff happens. Take your successes where you find them. The spirea as yet, survive, mostly. And vinca is still being sold, by the flat, over at Red's. Nothing a bit of spadework won't fix. In the realm of the government showing up at your front door and doing something bad to you, this was pretty minor stuff. "And then the soldiers came and killed our shrubbery."  
      And the weeds? Completely gone along with the earth that had been under them. Where they once were is a six-foot deep trench. Of course we could have saved ourselves the effort had we known the village was going to swoop in and do our weeding for us with a backhoe. But you know what? Those hours we were working, my wife in a big hat, were some of the most fun of the summer. Sure, we did not in fact accomplish anything. But who does when it comes to yardwork? At best you stem the tide for another day. At least my new edging is still in the back, waiting to be installed, the bags of mulch unopened. I could have meticulously put the stuff down only to see it immediately torn up. But I had a hunch. 
     So at least I guessed right, for once. I had a sense that things would not be going as planned. One should always expect that.  And always cling to the process, which can't be taken away, and not the result, which can. As my late mother-in-law liked to say, "We plan and God laughs." Or, in this case, the Village of Northbrook. 


  1. God laughs a lot. Once we laugh with him and not at him (or her yadda yadda), one finds themselves laughing quite a lot

  2. You said weed, and that made me chortle.


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