Monday, May 29, 2006

You Can't Beat Mother Nature

While I realize the proper adage is "You can't fool mother nature," I'm putting a bit of a twist on it to help describe my experience this past weekend.

One of my good mates makes his living as a professional landscaper. Recently, he sent an e-mail to a group of friends asking if any of us were willing to lend him a hand in a side-job he is doing. In a decision partly made in good will towards helping him out and partly for some self-fulfillment of my own, I agreed to sign on as a hired laborer. With full knowledge that it would undoubtedly put my physical capabilities to the test.

Needless to say, that assessment was spot on. However, the sense of satisfaction I had after finishing for the day made all the expected aches and pains well worth the effort.

My day began with the task of clearing out some pruning behind the row of trees marking the back end of the property. The space was cramped and the seemingly endless trips from behind the trees to the tarp I was to use to transport the refuse were punctuated by branches scraping my face and arms. After the first few trips I became accustomed to the feel and towards the end of my task I felt that I was becoming immune to it. At the same time, I was increasingly aware of the fresh smell of decomposing natural materials. Not at all like rotting garbage but quite the opposite. It was a fresh, earthy smell that held a secret. A secret of the cycle of life, of rejuvenation. A beautiful secret with a beautiful scent.

Next up on the list was what a couple of us hired hands began to jokingly refer to as 'rock farming'. One of the professionals on site had a Bobcat - one of those stout and powerful machines used to move small quantities of earth, boulders, and trees. As he expertly trolled the small plot in an effort to loosen up the soil, rocks of all shapes, sizes, and weights began surfacing. It was our job to clear the larger of them by picking them up by hand, tossing them into wheelbarrows, and trekking them to the edge of the site to be dumped as fill. It wasn't a glamorous job and it held much less introspective qualities than did my previous chore. One unmistakable lesson, however, was that rocks are heavy. Deceivingly heavy. And in seemingly endless supply. Soon, pickings became slim and only the smallest of rocks remained. Mission accomplished. The ground was ready for the next phase in its transformation.

While I was somewhat relieved to be finished with my rock farming duties, I found myself nostalgically remeniscing about 'the good 'ol minutes' after I began "grubbing." Looking back, this was the most difficult task of the day, by far. Grubbing is the term used for removing grass by hand with a large (and heavy) pick-axe type tool. One side comes to a point while the other comes to a flattened blade. By repetitiously lifting and dropping the axe, with the blade side down, small squares of grass are cut and separated from the earth below the roots. It's backbreaking work - and for someone going into it with a foul back to begin with, not a very pleasant task. With three of us on the job we managed to finish in a reasonable amount of time. None of us, I'm sure, was happier about that than I. If i never have to grub again, I'll die a happy man.

The final stage of the day's work consisted of planting three new trees from the nursery. I had been given the task of digging the hole for one of them. Luckily for me, it was to go into a circular stone feature in the center of the driveway which had probably been filled with loose dirt and compost, initially. This made the digging easy. No rocks to farm; no grass to grub. Job done. I was quite proud of my hole. One of the trees, I know, was a birch tree. The other two, I'm not so sure... and by that time of the afternoon, I was too exhausted to really care one way or the other. They were cool looking, though. That I do know. And they were fun to plant.

With just some cleaning up to do - picking up tools that had scattered themselves across the yard, sweeping dirt from the driveway, and collecting any trash that had accumulated - the day was coming to an end. While sweeping the driveway, I also surveyed the area and felt a sense of pride in the work we had accomplished. The ground we had cleared and graded to a natural smoothness. The trees in their new homes. The debris removed. It all looked fantastic. There was alot more to go in finalizing the project, for sure. That would be left for another day. But I was content to take in what we had done on that day.

All in all, a successful day. I've gained a new appreciation for those of us who work in a more physical profession - but, most importantly, I've also gained a new appreciation for those things that surround us each day. The beautiful, living, breathing, and silent things that only Mother Nature can provide.

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