Yard Work Is Hard Work
In the midst of doing yard work, I noticed the "Pea Gravel" label imprinted on each plastic bag that I grappled with from the front passenger seat and floor well of our car. Lugging another of the 50-pound bags of pebbles, I thought Pea Gravel; there's a name I didn't know before. Who comes up with these names?
Of course, I finally realized, the damn thing is filled with pea-shaped, large-pea pebbles of stone! Duh!
Exhausted, I laid the eighth and last bag upon the cement driveway and told my wife that this was as far as I was going to go with the stuff and with planting trees this night. She would have to break open the bags and deal with the contents whenever she desired on her own.
Man vs. Woman
She is a woman. Maybe she doesn't 'get' how much effort it takes to move EIGHT, 50-pound bags of shifting gravel from a car well floor to a location twenty feet away. Besides, what was wrong with putting the bags into the higher, more spacious, more easily accessed TRUNK? I thought.
I had already dug up, scraped up and loaded up 16 large barrels -- two at a time -- of dried earth, unwanted St. Augustine grass roots and Mexican Petunias, which had overtaken the front yard in spots, onto a soft-wheeled flatbed wagon, and hauled it all back to the northeast corner of our neighbor's backyard where I dumped it. Each time I turned over the heavy barrels with huge effort in stoic silence. As my wife watched, I heard my tired set of vertebrae that supported my 66-year-old frame scream at me that it was ready for more long hours in front of my computer screen in my home office where I write my books.
The day before my wife and I had worked for three hours in the yard, eliminating what we didn't want and digging holes for new trees until it was too dark to see what we were doing. Today was worse, however. As any gardener knows, the second day of yard work is always the hardest, because a terrible rigor mortis imitation overnight settles upon the seldom-used muscles and tendons that one forgot he ever had.
The Basis of Morale
As she does occasionally, my wife took pity on me after the last bag of gravel was on the ground. She smiled my way with that certain look of admiration that I've known for 18 years, which gets to the core of me. Perhaps she had noticed the rivulets of perspiration running down my forehead, my soaked tee shirt or the way I huffed a little too dramatically after finishing the task close to her. (I will admit it: I was sucking up for a compliment at that point.)
She even thanked me for helping her with the chore, but not without zinging at me a last dig: "If you hadn't done that, I would have had to carry each bag by myself, like I did at the store."
I wanted to respond to that, thinking in a millisecond of a million ways to phrase my retort -- I am a professional writer, after all -- but I refrained from any out loud remark that I might later regret.
Oddly enough, by this late hour on Sunday I actually relished my hard work. My morale was up from the physical labor, and my muscles were by now used to the stiffness from the first day. I also could see the fruits of our labor in front of me. Looking over how much we had changed the scene, I had to admit that our front yard had re-awakened. Once more, the potential for a return to its former showcase condition surfaced. When my wife finishes with it this time, we will probably both feel a measure of well-earned pride about its rejuvenated appearance.
By 8:30 P.M., the sun had disappeared under the Gulf Coast horizon. Even the sky overhead cooperated and clouded up, offering temperature relief, if not less humidity.
Suddenly, as I confirmed -- at least to myself -- that I was done for the day, heaven's angels saw the beauty of our work and let their tears fall, catching both of us in a drenching, yet refreshing, rain squall.
The Frangipani tree, already flush with about three dozen fragrant flower buds opened early in its annual season, gratefully accepted the raindrops, as did the freshly planted bougainvillea nestled within its ground cover of fresh pine-bark.
After the rainfall our frangipani tree scented the night air. In Italian, frangipani literally means "breads-breaker," after the 16th century marquess who invented the first scented perfume using the plant. Also known as Plumeria, its scientific name honors the 17th century botanist, Charles Plumier.
The plumeria blossoms and scent make finely laced and widely welcomed, perfumed leis ("melia" in Hawaiian) that are draped on visitors to Hawaii. The frangipani we have continues to remind my wife and me of past vacations that we've shared in exotic locales. Snapping a few of the fragrant buds off their stems, I recalled how the blossoms are worn by the local Hawaiian women over the right ear, when they are looking for a relationship and over the left if they are taken. I placed a flower over the left ear of my wife.
The plumeria, however, is deceptive. It uses its scent, which is most prominent at night, to attract the sphinx moth (at times mistaken for hummingbirds since they can feed on nectar while hovering midair) to pollinate it -- a ruse, considering its flowers have no nectar to offer to their fast-flying pollinators (They can reach up to 12 miles per hour; fast enough to capture the attention of Edgar Allen Poe who immortalized one in his short story, The Sphinx.)
I was satisfied with just the smile my wife presented to me during my little ritual. Nothing more was in the cards, given how tired we each felt. In fact, once inside and showered, without realizing we had, we fell asleep on the couch in the living room.
Still, we know that the ground is at least prepped and ready to accept pea gravel, pine bark and more holes for trees yet to come. The rest of the yard work can wait until after the lingering kinks in our muscles have disappeared.
Yard work is hard work. I might stick with the computer screen longer... at least until next weekend.