Friday, Jul. 27, 2007
Dear Diary:

"We don't have to do it all this year," the spousal unit grumps. "We can leave some of it for next year."

Maybe he can, but I can't. I have this weird feeling that the time open to me to do the sorts of insanely demanding work it takes to drag land like this from woods to landscape is tick tocking away. So every night it isn't raining, I coax him to work with me until dark.

We use prybars, shovels, and the tractor to move enormous mountains of rock and earth, to coax order and tranquility out of chaos. When the hydro woman was up last week to read our meter she remarked to me this is one of the most peaceful places she's ever seen. I had to laugh because it's taken years and years of sweat to create this serenity.

The walkway is finished and even I am taken aback by the change it makes. Even odder, it has a completely different feel depending on how you approach it. Here is how it looks when I walk out the door of my house looking towards the pond, gently flowing:

Yet, when I stand where my car was and look back towards the house, the walkway looks incredibly serpentine:

I've already begun to sketch in a perennial flowerbed on the left of the walkway. By next year it will be about six feet in depth and swirl around at the upper end to completely span the front of the porch. This will sound completely insane, but I want to create a floral hug, to embrace everyone who comes to my door through flowers.

Don't worry. I'm most definitely crazy, but I'm too tired to be violent.

I built another stone wall, this one clearing up a jumble of weeds, rocks and stumps that had been dumped years ago when levelling what became my daffodil meadow. For those keeping count, and I think I speak for us all when I say it's important to keep count of everything, this would be my fourth stone wall of the year.

This has produced a running joke between the spousal unit and me. When I first rebuilt the woodshed wall, I solemnly told him that me being 56 and all, that would probably be my last wall.

Then I went and finished rebuilding and raising the pond wall. Again I told him that me being 56 and all, that would probably be my last wall.

Then I built a stone wall and flower bed below the house. Again I told him that me being 56 and all, that would probably be my last wall.

When I built the daffodil meadow wall I decided it was probably wisest not to mention that it was my final stone wall. I'm hoping that if I just keep my mouth shut I can kick the stone wall habit.

Remember, kuh-RAZY, but too tired to be violent.

My biggest and toughest project his year is the one that no one but me will ever notice. It's this:

This was the route that the backhoe, the dump truck and our tractor took to get up and down to build hostapalooza in front of our house a few years ago. It's just to the right of where I park my car and the first thing I see when I get out my car.

It was about 125 feet of horror. Enormous ruts packed down hard as cement by the weight of the humongous vehicles. Out of this jutted rocks and tree roots. No one believes me when I say this, but I took over 20 wheelbarrows of rock and tree roots out of that area. Shovelful by shovelful I dug out all the crap, raked it smooth and then turned it into a lush vista that invites you to meander down a path to admire the gardens below the house.

It's unremarkable, because you'd expect it to be that way. In the end, I guess that's what I'm trying to do—through unspeakable amounts of sweat create something that looks as if it's always been there.

It is an odd sort of hobby to have.

The spousal unit and I were in Montreal a while back to get our passports. When the woman at the desk asked if we had travel plans, I said, "Nope, I just need it to go to the gym."

Blink.

So I explained how I live just a few miles from the Vermont border and the closest gym to me happens to be in the United States. She thought that was hilarious, wanting a passport to work out.

The spousal unit thinks it odd that even with all my physical activity, I still go to the gym religiously three times a week. It's not about the perfect body or the ideal weight. It's about independence. I know that if I didn't do that, I wouldn't have the strength and stamina to do the things I love.

Plus, with all this rock work I can now do three pull-ups. What woman would not want to be able to put that on her resumé? My thoughts, exactly.

Strong doesn't mean big.I used to worry that working out would make me bulk out, that strong equalled big. T'ain't so for a woman. My buddie Freddie and I went out for supper with the spousal unit, my daughter, and her posse when we were in Montreal for the passports, so this snapshot wasn't taken long ago. As you can see, I haven't bulked out. I look like anybody's mom.

Thing is, in my mid-50's I can deadlift my body weight of 150 pounds, squat my body weight, do 20 pound bicep curls. Getting strong will not make a woman big. My experience has been that getting strong makes you more compact. It also makes you independent. That may not seem like a big deal when you're a zygote, but I know several women my age who can no longer carry in their own groceries.

It doesn't have to be that way.

I'm in a kind of lull now. I haven't decided what my next big project will be for this summer. When I was a child, I used to spend my summers complaining to my mom that there was nothing to dooooooooooooo. Now my problem is that there's so much to do, I have to prioritize it.

Each night as the dusk falls, I sit on the bench by my pond and soak everything in. It is almost completely silent except for the occasional coo of a mourning dove, or the splash of a frog hitting the water. Everywhere I look I see something the spousal unit and I have created. It has taken us 30 years. Sometimes I think one heart cannot possibly hold the happiness that washes over me in this place I love so much.

There is nothing more transitory than a landscape in the woods. The trees constantly try to grab back what we have carved away from them. Five years after I leave this garden, there will be tiny saplings everywhere unless someone pulls them out as I do. A decade after I leave there will be small trees. In 30 years, the same amount of time it has taken us to create this, the forest could completely fill it in again.

When the spousal unit and I walked our land 35 years ago, trying to decide where we would eventually build, in the middle of the woods we stumbled upon a rectangle of dry laid stones. It was a primitive foundation from a long ago, long forgotten home. Everything else was gone, only those stones and a few broken scraps of old blue and white pottery remained. We decided to build our home on this same spot.

Sometimes I wonder if many years from now someone else will walk through our woods, stumble upon our foundation, and decide that they, too, would like a house here.

They could do far worse.

--Marn

Mileage on the Marnometer: 297.92 miles Ten percent there rubber duck. Ten percent there rubber duck.Ten percent there rubber duck.Ten percent there rubber duck.Half way there

Going Nowhere Collaboration

Goal for 2007: 500 miles


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