On the shady side of the house the grass is always green. In this northern part of the yard, the harshness of the sun disappears a little earlier in the day and the ground stays a little wetter, a little more fertile. The heavily used bird feeders are surrounded by a few strong evergreens, a few variegated hosta plants, and a few colorful shade loving perennials. It is in this part of the yard where the weeping Japanese maple tree lives. For eight years, the tree with the gorgeous, fine cut, red leaves lived a happy and healthy life. In its place of honor near the front door, the beautiful, well behaved tree put a smile on the face of the family and friends and door to door salespeople who arrived at the home. It is on this shady side of the house that the shocking crime took place.
The yard had been well cared for in years past. The vegetables in the backyard, the petunias and tulips in the front yard and the small green lawn surrounding the house showed that the caretaker was a thoughtful and energetic and creative gardener. The yard had been cared for organically and as environmentally friendly as possible. It was a critter friendly yard. Ladybugs were released. The butterflies and birds were made to feel welcome. The worms helped create the compost. The spiders were allowed to keep their webs. The yard was full of love.
However, all was not exactly as it seemed. Behind the perfectly arched gate and fence boards stained in “Sierra Oak”, the yard was hiding an embarrassing, dirty secret. It was unfinished. Although the yard was over eight years old, the caretaker had failed to bring the yard to its full potential. Oh, the front yard fooled most of the neighbors, but the unseen backyard didn’t even have all of its flowerbeds cut out of the lawn yet. No larger patio had been pored. No deck had been built. No arbor with scented, climbing vines had been installed. And shockingly, the backyard did not have one privacy tree planted. This inexcusable, unfinished yard business should have been the first clue that all was not well with the caretaker.
As the years went on, there were signs that the yard was becoming too much for the caretaker to handle. The caretaker began to get careless and even neglectful. The hostas weren’t divided when they should have been. The bulbs weren’t dug up on schedule. The edges on the lawn weren’t as crisp and trimmed as they had been in prior years. The strawberries stretched out and even began growing into the lawn. The raspberries weren’t tied up and began to fall over. Years went by without a single tree branch being pruned. And most appalling, a Halloween pumpkin decoration was left in a flowerbed for over a year.
Before long, the critters also began to mutiny out of control of the caretaker. The slugs and snails multiplied to an unreasonable number. The yellow jackets and wasps built nests willy nilly under the eaves. The dwindling ladybug population was no longer able to keep the aphids under control. A possum was seen making himself at home underneath the rhododendron. Neighborhood cats began using the flowerbeds as a litter box. The screaming and shaking caretaker was even seen chasing a renegade pair of raccoons from the bird feeder. It was the ants though, that pushed the caretaker over the edge. It was the thousands, perhaps even millions, of swarming ants that caused the caretaker to go over to the dark side. The caretaker began to kill. The plants and critters looked on in fear as she sprayed the non organic, ant killing poison all over the fleeing black specks. She yelled out loudly with a joyous and victorious feeling, “Ha! Take that! I win, you little buggers!” The yard then knew for sure that the caretaker had gone off the deep end. The yard was no longer full of love.
The caretaker began to waste water on the lawn. She fertilized the lawn with fertilizer that didn’t have an environmental seal of approval. Many of the critters were now seen as pests and disposed of as fast as the caretaker could find the poison to do it. She gave up on composting her yard and food waste. She no longer went to plant sales or garden centers. She failed to place an order from the bulb catalog. The hedge went untrimmed.
And so it was, one cloudy desolate Saturday morning, that the caretaker decided to clean the green moss and algae off that northern, wetter, shady side of the house. The caretaker hooked up her supposedly non toxic, outdoor bleach cleaner to her hose and began to saturate the side of the house. She let it set. Then she rinsed. The caretaker was most pleased. The shady side of the house was fresh and clean and new again. Little did she know the impact of her actions that day would bring such harm and shame to the yard.
A day later, the caretaker walked out of her front door and saw the effects of her careless actions. The loyal Japanese maple tree cried out in pain in front of her. The disappointed yard cast its eyes downward to avoid her gaze. The birds fled. The years of the caretaker’s neglect had culminated in this appalling crime against nature, a crime against the innocent tree. The caretaker had failed to rinse off the bleach solution as well as she should have. The caustic, assaulting water dripped down on half of the maple tree, bleaching the half of the tree closest to the house. The caretaker had given her innocent maple tree highlights. Half of the tree’s leaves were a beautiful deep purplish-red color. The leaves on the other half of the tree were a cheap hooker hair orangey-blond color.
The caretaker knew she had failed the tree and the yard. Neighbors would walk by and stop and gawk at the disfigured tree. Healthy plants in the neighborhood would taunt the new neighborhood outcast as they blew their healthy branches in the wind. When the Mormon missionaries came to the door they weren’t interested in saving the caretaker. They asked if there was anything they could do to help the poor tree. Even the neighborhood cats refused to hide under the crinkly, dried blond branches anymore.
As so, dear reader, we are left with a careless crime against a tree, a yard full of neglect, and an embarrassed caretaker vowing to change her neglectful and harmful ways. The caretaker has since recovered her bulb catalog out of the recycle bin, pulled a few weeds from the shady side of the yard and has tied up the raspberry vines. And she has vowed to never, ever again be stingy with her rinsing water. The yard is happy to report that since it is now October, the neighbor children aren’t laughing anymore at the Halloween pumpkin decoration sticking out of the flowerbed. As for the tree, it has actually grown quite fond of the highlights and is secretly hoping to go a shade lighter in the spring.
Check This Out!
I’ve been listening to two heartfelt and passionate female singers this week. Look up “eclectic Celtic” Canadian singer Loreena McKennitt at www.quinlanroad.com . Check out her song Dante’s Prayer. You can find “folk rock” Brandi Carlile at www.brandicarlile.com . You’ll like her song, The Story.
Your story makes me think of the timeless children's classic, the Selfish Giant and your music recommendation makes me think of the Fade to Bluegrass:Tribute to Metallica. Fun stuff!!
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