Either ol’ Robbo is getting more efficient in his yard work or else I’ve finally moved the goalposts sufficiently, but I find that I’m getting a heck of a lot done out in the grounds of Port Swiller Manor this year. Here it is the end of May and I’ve got the garden thoroughly under control weed-wise and the lawn up to date, with time left over to get at some other projects that have hung fire for a while.
One of these is the lone pine tree in a yard otherwise given over to a fringe of maple and oak. It’s something between fifty and sixty feet tall and has been the source of greens for my Advent and Christmas table wreaths for years.
Two or three years back, however, I noticed that the lower limbs of the thing were starting to look aged and worn out, losing their needles and starting to die off. I don’t know if this is just a thing with pine trees, whether the ivy that was starting to work its way up the trunk was somehow choking them off, or if some other ailment was involved.
This weekend, deciding that the thing was getting decidedly ratty in the knickers, I determined to go out and do something about cleaning it up. So I pulled out my trusty little hand saw and, starting low, proceeded to start lopping off dead limbs. (I also yanked the ivy, just in case.) For each, I left a short stump protruding from the trunk, in part because the diameters were a bit smaller several inches out and I’m not as young as I used to be, and in part because I recognized that they would make an excellent ladder by which to get myself to the ones higher up. The top dead branches were maybe twelve to fifteen feet above the ground.
Now I must sidestep here for just a second. For those of you who don’t know, ol’ Robbo’s chief physical defect is his very bad eyesight. (We’ve no space to go into his mental defects here, which are Legion, and anyway they’re beside the point.) I’ve worn corrective lenses since third grade. My sight is so feeble now that my fingers go blurry five inches from my face. Things farther than a few feet away are mere colored blobs. It’s that bad.
Normally, I wear contacts. But on the weekends, unless I’m corralled into some kind of social event or off to Mass, I usually give my eyes a rest and wear my glasses. Despite all the sooper-modern lens-thinning technology, these are right coke bottle bottoms. If they’d have been made the old-fashioned way, they’d probably break the bridge of my nose.
So any road, there I was, about fifteen feet up the tree, busily sawing away at a limb with one hand while clinging to another with the other hand, when my glasses, spotting an opportunity, decided to make a bolt for it and fell off my face.
I’ve had them fall off before, of course, but never in a situation quite like this one. It’s wonderfully humbling, a gentle reminder of how frail and fragile we really are.
As I slowly made my way down, largely by the Braille method, all sorts of thoughts about Ma Nature’s ways of dealing with the old, the hurt and the sick wandered through my brain. I had visions of being easy meat for a velociraptor or a sabre-toothed tiger, an Iroquois scalp-hunter or a mugger. And this was just in a suburban yard. I can’t imagine what it would have felt like had I been in some inner-city hell hole or on a cliff-face or in the middle of the Serengeti or at sea.
Anyhoo, I eventually got myself down in one piece and, after scrabbling about in the undergrowth for a bit, found the damned things. Slapping them back on, I quickly looked round to make sure there were no inbound red toothes or claws and then got on with the job.