I hate it when metaphors are hanging around like bad dogs, just asking to be kicked. But sometimes, I'm smart enough to see them and to get it, have my "duh" moment, and then move on.
Our house was built in 1962 by the Sue family, all of them here on the weekends and evenings until the house was habitable. Mr. Sue was a trained landscape architect, and our yard is festooned with his good taste, most pointedly the three story wisteria.
When Michael and I first saw the house, it was the most obvious thing about the view from the back, the creeping, twisting twelve inch in diameter (at the bottom) vine that slunk up the house, green and purple, buzzing with big fat honey, bumble, and black bees.
I have been in residence with a wisteria before, but nothing like this wisteria. I knew to cut back the wild green vines that shoot out in late spring and summer. But I didn't know that I should go in looking for dead wood. In fact, I didn't know that there was dead wood in there. How could I have noticed with all the green vibrancy and dangling, grapelike flowers?
But then, last year, things seemed to not be going well. The leaves looked pallid, pale, faded. Then sections of leaves went yellow, the leaves falling off in August instead of December. Terrified, I started doing some research and found out a couple of things. One was that wisteria vines have a lifespan and that ours could likely be up. The other was that I should have been tending to this vine.
Go in, the online source exhorted. Look for dead wood. Cut! Trim!
I looked for dead wood. Let me put it this way: dead wood snapped off in my hands. Tons of it. Yards of it. There was dead wood everywhere. Huge vines that had been there forever were crisp, brittle, and brown. I sawed, I cut, I toted the deadness to the recycling bin.
The vine was still three stories, but now much more sparse, spare, slightly skeletal in the winter. Now, spring again, the purple flowers are out, but so few of them in comparison. But both of us prize them more, stare at them, conjure their health and longevity. We stare at the tiny leaves. We hope.
And then one day as I stared at the newly shorn, slim, trim vine, I remember all the dead wood, and not just from the vine. It's like life, all the useless stuff ignored and cluttering up the works, keeping what is new from coming in. All that dead stuff keeps the new stuff from doing well, from flowing, from growing. Keeping it packed around us is the mistake. But we forget to look. We forget we have to move.
And when our leaves turn yellow, we imagine we don't know why.
Causes Jessica Inclán Supports
Women for Women International Goodwill Industries Lindsey Wildlife Museum Freecycle.org