I seek solace in exhaustion. I’m not going to drink my way through this, I know better than that, so working myself into a coma is the only thing I can think of doing. Dawn appears Saturday morning and the coffee is ready to go. It was a sleepless night but it was to be expected. Work gloves and long sleeves are the uniform of the day but curiously, I wear a tee shirt. There’s a reason I wear long sleeves, isn’t there? I begin with the low lying branches on the west side of my property and the vines that seek to invade the Oak trees there.
Thirteen years ago the Oak on the west side of the property were a sorry lot and they more or less stayed that way until I decided to unchain them from the vines that were strangling them. I went in and hacked and hacked and then I hacked some more. Slowly, over the last few years, the vines have been in retreat and the Oaks are even more slowly beginning to gain some altitude. But I cannot let up, no, not even for one season. There are wild grape vines high in the upper branches of the Oaks and if I don’t get them down they will become ladders for next year’s vines to climb even higher. Vines climb upon their dead each year until there is a mass of dad and living vines that drag trees down. They’ll stunt or even outright kill young trees and they’ll damage the older ones.
I take down low hanging branches so the vines have to work harder to get up and it’s easier to get them back down. Some of the vines are so entwined with the Oaks’ limbs that I cannot do anything but nip them off as high as I can reach and cut them off as far down as I can find. There’s a million miles of vines on the fenceline and I wonder how many feet I’m going to manage today. I pile the limbs I cut off and the vines I kill on the tarp and drag it all to the Fire Pit. I started at dawn and quit in the middle of the morning. It’s very hot and I am dehydrated. Insects have feasted on me where my where my skin was exposed. Oh, yeah, long sleeves.
Second shift begins at three and I’m trying to clear the West Bank of the pond that creates the eastern most border of my property. A couple of years ago I started a fire that got bigger and badder than I wanted and it killed some of the young Oaks. It’s a bitch what happened and I hate it, but there is nothing to be done but try to start over again. There’s a few good trees started and there are some very small Oaks just getting up. I go in and clear out those who have no chance because they are too close to the older trees or because they’ve been damaged. There is a lot of dead wood to haul out and I pile it up on a tarp and haul it all to the Fire Pit. The day is winding down when I quit and I don’t have enough energy to get done all that I want to get done.
A storm brews up and slams into us near dark and it feels good. The cool wetness and intensity of the wind whipped rain is in sharp contrast of the stagnant humidity that has ruled the day. Oh, but wait, lightning strikes very close to us and the electricity goes off briefly. My computer shuts down and refuses to run again for about an hour. It’s back up but it’s running really, really, slowly. I may have to buy another or get this one fixed. It’s six years old so… By ten I’m on the bed listening to the storm slowly spend its last bit of energy in a very light rain. It feels good to be this tired.
Dawn, again, Sunday morning, and the old leaky espresso machine is asked to rise to the occasion once again. Exhaustion is already here and it’s a question as to whether or not it can be defeated by caffeine alone. Coffee has never failed before. Coffee is a fundamental part of living, like air, food, water, and writing. It’s one of the tenets of my religion. It’s proof of existence. Decaffeinated is the same as saying Satanic. This is not subject to debate.
I know I’m tried when I start trying to bargain with myself about how much I will do. “Just do the front,” I tell myself, “and that will be enough!” “Wait and mow this week and it will be okay,” I say and wishful thinking begins to set in. “You don’t have to do all the extra stuff today, just mow the grass and be done with it!” But here’s the thing; I want to push more than just the mower today. I want to push myself.
It’s foggy and a little hard to see at six-forty-five, but I cannot wait. There are parts of this yard I could mow blind and the West Bank is so thick I won’t need light there. The first half hour is spent trying to keep the mower alive as I invade the thick underbrush that limits my ability to navigate on shores of the pond. The thick grass on the north end of the property takes another twenty minutes. By then the fog has lifted and the rest of the front yard awaits.
I’m ridiculously happy about my Zinnias. They came up and bloomed quickly and now the butterflies have discovered them again. My tomatoes could be doing better but the pepper plants are rocking. Next year I’m expanding the garden and mowing less. I tell myself this each time I mow, you know.
The front yard is nearly done and I run out of gas. Refuel and keep going. I mow the back yard, part of the trail, the area around the Fire Pit and then I’m done. Really, and really and really done. I haven’t been this tired in years.
A man ought not drink when he feels so strongly he needs to or that he might have a reason to drink hard. But exhaustion is a drug that cannot be overdone. I think. Damn, I am so tired.
It feels good.