mardi 14 septembre 2010

The garden, home alone

The wisteria hangs ponderously over the shaggy box hedge

The Garden is in need of editing.


Things grow during your absence, things you have pruned. It's a damnable fact. Gardens make cruel task masters. Take the box hedge leading down the stairs. Take the wisteria over head, too, while you're at it.

I had noticed before I left in mid-August that the hedge was in need of a little maintenance trim. There were unruly branches sticking out here and there and a number of wisteria shoots hanging down onto the stairs and pushing up through the box. Wisteria requires a small army wielding pruning shears all on its own, thinning it and doing battle with its prolific shoots almost daily. But, by the time I was back and willing to go have a look -- which is pretty much unavoidable if I am to go to the pool pump shed, which was absolutely unavoidable --, it was nearly as bad as I had found it 9 years ago.

It rained a lot while we were gone, which is nearly as bad as not raining at all while we were gone.

And, so, I went dutifully to the garage for the electric pruning thing, trudged into the house to plug in the outdoor extension cord, and went to deadhead the flowers.

Well, that needed doing too, you know.

And I took lots of pictures of the many new baby fish Sam and I discovered pouring over the population of the fountain my husband turned into a fishpond quite some time ago, long before our arrival, and that we emptied and repaired last year. I had been terrified that we'd ruin it, make all the frogs give up on our hospitality and go away -- forever --, and having lost all but 4 fish in the sudden and absolute freeze that January, it didn't look all that promising, but today, I am proud to say, we are approaching the numbers of fish we had before the freeze, they have more space and wonderful plants in which to hide, feed and reproduce, and that they are doing successfully. I doubted it this year, but it turned out that it was only that the fry had more placed to shelter themselves, although a great many sustained their elders, as usual.

Those plants also served to hide the tadpoles, which were in evidence last year. I can see them now that they are quite large and dart around among the fish occasionally.

Eventually, I picked up the electric hedge trimmer and set to work. You'd think it's the sort of work that would go quickly, after all, the little branches stick right up to present themselves to the blades, the shape of the hedge is still clear, and the thing is electric, but it doesn't. And it makes a big mess.

It was nearly dark when my husband rode up to the lower gate and opened it to park his bike. I darted from whatever I had been doing inside the house to the plastic basin I use to collect the cuttings and transport them to the compost bin provided by the CAMY (Communauté de l'aglommération de Mantes en Yvelines, thank you; we live in an "agglomeration" (2 "g"s and 1 "s", please), but that's what the French in their poetry call an urban area). I had scurried back down behind the box hedge on the other side from the stair, just as he crossed the bottom garden and headed up.

"Ah, mais tu es là," he said with some clear satisfaction. "Je me suis dis que tu ne laisserais jamais tout ça pas ramassé. Attends que je reviens t'aider."

Today, I passed for someone who does things with her time, and we cleaned up the cuttings until we couldn't see in the thickening twilight -- it comes early this time of year, but we forget the summer will not last forever -- and went inside in time for Sam to call, his second time today.

"Mom," he said, "tell Audouin there is boxing on TV." I laughed.

"Here, Sam, tell him yourself." I handed him the phone.

The first call concerned his classes, his search for the perfect part-time job, and his shopping for dinner.

"Mom, this weekend, I need you to show me exactly how to make pasta. I know you put olive oil or butter or something in the water to keep it from sticking, right?"

"That's right, Sam. It's pretty easy, really."

"But, olive oil, that's expensive, isn't it?"

"Oh, you can get a good enough store brand, and it should last you awhile," I reassured him. "We'll do some grocery shopping for kitchen basics this weekend, alright?"

You know, I thought his infant eyes gazing into mine and then his first steps, his pointing to Arcuri's Pizza as we drove home from the train after work, asking for their white pizza with spinach and his first soccer goal were pretty terrific, but this, this move into independence and all the questions, the things to discover and to learn to master for himself, it just might be the best yet.

This weekend, preparing store-bought pasta straight from the bag and eggs.

By the way, this, to the right, is our favorite of the babies born this year that survived to grow up and live with us. We have never had one like this, mostly orange, partly pink and covered with black spots. He has a funny way of swimming, too, which amuses we simple folk.

I'll name him The Lone Ranger, or Bandit.
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