It’s spring. The ground phlox blooms pink over granite ledge, the blossoms from one round of rhododendrons drop while another readies to pop. We’ve greened up nicely, but amidst my gardening chores this weekend, I discovered repercussions from The Great Tree Tragedy of Winter, 2013. Although we’ve finally cleaned up the area where a massive oak demolished our shed, sheared off the tops of five pines and irrevocably altered the appearance of our yard, the tree that caused the mess is having a final say.
Our new shed rests a few feet back from the footprint of the old one. The fat leafed Hostas that used to sit by the door of the old building now sit too far out. While deciding where to move them, we noticed seedlings. Amidst the wood chips left over from stump grinding, in between the stone steps and crevices that populate our yard, tiny oaks have burst forth from the bumper crop of acorns the old tree spewed when it crashed to the earth. I spend an hour on my knees yanking the little guys up on Sunday, before realizing eliminating them will be a long-term project.
Even more than the damage caused by the tree itself, this burgeoning yield communicates the ultimate authority of nature. Oh sure. We notice when she comes at us with wind and snow, rain, hurricanes and tornadoes. Newscasters are quick to sensationalize those big ticket events, the ones that bully us with strength and ferocity. A few months later in our side yard though, Mother Nature demonstrates a more subtle power.
As I sat yanking sprouts up by the roots, it became clear to me how inconsequential my place is on this earth. I’m a hiccup really, even less. We’ve lived in our home 21 years. But were we to turn our backs, in less than half that time the yard we’ve tilled, planted and edged would return to brush and trees. The acorns deposited across our half-acre have the potential to contour the landscape long after I’ve become nothing more than compost. So what if I pull this crop up? There will always be more. Year after year, oaks, maples, pines and ash will disperse a gazillion more seeds which will in turn, become trees. At some point, the invasive pricker-vines I dig up each spring will have their way. The poison ivy that seeds itself in my gardens will drown out the perennials I tend to with love. Bittersweet vines will become an impenetrable tangle.
As I sat in the shade of two oak saplings we’ve “allowed” to grow over the last few years gazing out over an area now populated with baby oaks, I understood the temporary and inconsequential nature of our presence here. We call it “our” house, and “our” yard. But really, it’s on loan to us from a relatively benevolent Mother Nature. Once in a while, she feels the need to deliver a blatant reminder that she’s in charge. Most of the time though, she humors us by letting us garden and mulch and shape the land, full well knowing in the end, she’ll take her earth back and form it how she pleases.