mardi 29 juillet 2014

One small corner

The tree that's coming down

It started in a chat on Facebook May 28,

You have to start small
Start with one small corner
Dont' lose hope.

I replied, feelng wry might ascend to hope,

Better to start in a corner than to finish in one.

The reply came back,


That reminded me not to take myself and my innumerable and *very serious* problems too seriously, although they are without number, and very grave. It settled in a corner of my depressed spirit, and I drove to Switzerland.

In Switzerland, I saw, again, impeccable old buildings and farms, and astonishingly good contemporary architecture that makes me feel that France should just give up. Stop. Now. I stayed with friends in their clean-lined, gray-toned apartment, and I watched them prepare to pack to leave it. A chopping block kitchen island, the type you might see for small kitchens at Williams Sonoma, sat in a corner behind the dining table. It was covered with cook books, recipe files, and travel books. I noticed they started here. In a corner.

In my own corner, in the black leather easy chair, I read the book my friend had put in my hands practically the moment I arrived, and for good reason (I had gained an alarming amount of weight in fat), Tim Ferriss' "4-Hour Body", and observed them reducing piles and creating order, listening to them decide what to keep, what to give away, and what to take to recycling. Two resolutions formed, one conscious, the other perfectly unnoticed: one, to begin Ferriss' program without delay, and two, to pick a corner upon my return.

That return coincided with a date a little less than one month from the arrival of family, family that had not been to our house in 10 years. You see how the threads are coming together to make a fil conducteur? This was going to happen. I began in a corner, the kitchen cupboards that serve as pantry, and that contained unmentionable, disgusting things that had turned their metal covers to dust and leaked all over the top shelves.

I ride a horse. A homemaker I am not, although I aspire to be.

Three weeks passed in a literal frenzy of activity, involving clipping everything in the bottom garden, and, more importantly, attacking all corners of the house, all of them, except our bedroom, which nobody has need to enter (although they did, and I sucked it up), and the room [N.B.: I have been cleaning to please my deceased grandmother in anticipation of my aunt's arrival, a theme] we never finished when it became clear that part of the house was falling down, with all manner of cleaning tools and products. The garbage bin was filled and emptied twice a week for three weeks, and more left in the trailer we hitched to the car. I scrubbed the bathroom ceiling, woodwork everywhere, cleaned windows and between floorboards with a knifeblade, vacuumed and polished. I did laundry nonstop, and hung it out to dry in the sun, remade beds with fresh everything, except our bed --  nobody else would sleep in it --, which I finally did, only because I could not stop. A white tornado, once unleashed, is a genie hard to put back in its plastic bottle.

As we say, "Je me suis fait violence."

It was cathartic. It was masterful. It was hardly noticeable to any normal person, who would expect a house to look better than it did when I had to declare the work finished, hours before the airplane touched down at Roissy. I chose to protect myself in my own private glow.

And, the guests came and left, and the edge had not worn off. I put away everything I used, vacuumed when the dog hair made the living room rug look dull, did, dried, folded and put away laundry without prompting, as in "Could you do a load of laundry? I am very sorry, but I have no more socks." I even bought toilet fresheners in lavender scent for the petit coin, and I felt holy, but, the garden looked worse than it had in ages. For all my work, since the beginning of the spring, it looked awful.

Worse, my husband still wanted his structure in the bottom garden, behind the huge rolling gate, to store our vehicles. He thinks we can get them all in there. For his scientific and logical mind, he lacks spatial sense. He also wants to move the old wood Riva-type boat in there and renovate it. He dreams of Sunday afternoons spent motoring up and down the Seine around "la boucle".

I had noticed, when I hacked away the vegetation from around the boat's cement block shelter, that it appeared to have more holes than when I had last had such a good view (count in years).

The trailer hitch for the horse van inspired me, before I moved my white tornado into the house, to begin to attack the brambles, weed trees and weeds growing back on the embankment we needed to remove to have room for a structure large enough for only an assortment of our vehicles. Having begun, and set it aside to make a habitable space for my family, I returned, again. How many times have I cleared this embankment? If I didn't want to do it again next year, I was going to have to do it, all the way.

"What are you planning to do with that embankment," asked my husband, again.

"Get rid of it."

He said nothing. He is learning.

I yanked at weeds and their roots with my contractor's rake; I cut at brambles, pulling them down out of the high branches of the unwanted and unwelcome elderberry (it would seem) trees; I stuck myself with thorns, covered myself with dirt, and decorated my hair with these tiny little prickly pods that stick in your hair, on your clothes, and get into your boots.

Does anyone know what these are? They are about 3mm in diameter, and light brown. Thank you.

The embankment mostly cleared, the cuttings hauled away in several trips, the fence along the top gazed at me Saturday afternoon, mournfully, and I glowered back.

Yes, I know. You, too.

I went to get my tools, including wire cutters. Removing years' and years' growth of ivy, ivy that has woven the light gauge chain-link into itself, is a surgical and hellish procedure. By late Saturday evening, I had made it a little more than one third of the way along the chain-link and fence posts that sagged forward beneath the accumulated weight of hugely overgrown ivy. In some places, the steel that reinforced the posts had rotted away at the base; in others, it was bent under the weight. I cut the chain-link wire, made easier by oxidation, chopped through the gnarled, entwined and entangled ivy branches, and pulled down the fence posts, one after another.

I swore about people who imagined that sinking fence posts into rubble was an acceptable idea.

I swore about people who considered ivy a structural element.

I swore about the dust and leaf mold that accumulates in such interstitial spaces. And, I sneezed, again and again, wiping at the dust filling my eyes, partially losing my vision. Everything appeared muted and watery, and I swore about that.

In short, I swore.

In defense of myself, I swore to myself, unlike my husband, who kept up a blue streak, muttering away from the pool pump building, not far enough away from me. He couldn't get a new leak under control.

"How are you going to put in new fence posts?" Unbelievably, I hadn't noticed when he had stopped and come near me.

"I told you, I am not." He hadn't listened to me hiss this the first time. "There is a second wire fence just behind. I'll leave it there for now, and deal with it once all the rest is down." All the rest included a tree. The largest elderberry tree yet.

A tree that I am about to go out into the drizzle and begin to cut down. It is magnificently drapped in cascades of le liseron des haies (Calystegia sepium L., formerly Convolvulus sepium), or larger bindweed, hedge bindweed, Rutland beauty (my foot), bugle vine, heavenly trumpets (not so much), bellbind. I have only these to help me accomplish this feat,

And, today of all possible days, I received a follow from . Clicking on it, I see... a photo of wondrous chainsaws in their profile summary!

I tweet back,

Thanks for the follow 
. This is MY kind of garden tool. I should add "sadly". I need a bigger chainsaw for today's job! Tim-BER!!

The tweet is returned,

No problem :-)'s a good thing we have a chainsaw competition running then! You can enter here

I tweet in excited reply,

Oh , I'm SO entering your competition! In fact, I'm going to BLOG about it. Please, please, please let me win, oh Rota Fortunae!

They favorited it! Oh! Please, let that make me win!

I need something better than what my husband will buy at the home improvement store.

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