Sunday, August 28, 2016

I Fought the Lawn and the Lawn Won: Holes and Hair, and Bear.



This morning I had to kill some red wasps who were building a nest on my front door. There is no making peace with these creatures and I have to wonder why in very late August they’re homesteading on my door. The end is near for them, all of them, and somehow, I wonder why there isn’t some mechanism that ought to tell them this. Yet at the same time, perhaps this is nature’s way of telling me the wasps know something I do not. Last year there was an active nest deep into November and that nest was one I didn’t knock down when it got cold. This year another set of wasps built very close to it and then incorporated it into their new nest. The wasps never attack me when I’m mowing the lawn and I wonder if it’s the dust or the noise or both?

Mowing the backyard has now become an exercise in strategy and upper body strength. I have to weave around the holes and pits the Black Plague have dug, and I have to keep the mower mostly off the ground while this is going on. It occurs to me there are no mounds, only holes. I think this is because the Labs eat dirt and it turns into hair which is shed on the floor. After the hair is tossed out of the house it turns back into dirt where they dig holes into it again. It is an endless cycle.

This week there is dust, as well as holes, and the dew has been eaten by the plants before I begin just after dawn. The endless Summer afternoon rains have slackened and now it’s drying out to the point of being a detriment. There’s a cloud of dust that follows me and even with a mask and safety glasses on it’s a lot like mowing in the Mojave. Add the dodging I’m having to do to avoid the dens of the Cousins and it slowly eats up fuel and time. Yet the grass and weeds are not as thick as they were back in June and July. It is, after all, late August now, and the grass is beginning to thin, just a bit.

I’m rewriting a story that I began last year, finished, and then returned to visit to see if I could play with the gender roles just a bit. If you have a lead character who is female, and is the only person in the group who suspects a male in the group is evil, it’s easy to make a reader believe she’s being paranoid if the other characters are willing to go along with the idea of the hysterical female. The other side of the coin is that the guy in question is icky as hell, but does that make him evil? And the reader is left guessing. The woman in question has nightmares and is prone to be snarky. The guy in question is a pathological liar who doesn’t tell the truth until he’s trapped in a lie. The others are more or less trying to figure it all out as to what’s going on and then bear.

Really, what else do you need if you want to terrorize a few people in the woods? You don’t need witches or demons or any sort of evil force and you don’t need a supersized prehistoric bear when an average grizzly will do everything you want. If the people are secure in a place but they have to leave for food or water sooner or later and then it’s them and Smokey… What else do you need for terror and desperation? Nothing supernatural comes close to the idea that sooner or later you have to walk sixty miles to the nearest paved road and there’s a bear outside. Toss in a guy with a knee injury and suddenly two of the three survivors look bad for realizing he’s going to be the first taken and maybe they can run. How closely bonded are you to other people when bear? There’s a lot to think about when the food chain doesn’t look the same as it did the last time you went to McDonald’s.


I have to refuel when I switch from the Holey Land to the front yard. It’s taken much more time than usual and the air filter has to be hurting by now. I watch as a stray breeze pushes the last dust cloud over the pond. That’s a lot of dust, I tell you. Even in the drier part of August with the sunlight decaying a little more each day, the grass is sparse. There are spots in the yard where even after two weeks of not mowing it’s still not overgrown like it would have been a month ago. The fence that borders my neighbor’s land and mine has a fury of Autumn vines growing on it and soon there will be purple, white, and red flowers covering everything that the vines can climb. The wild grape vines are sporting golden leaves as they die. The deep dark green of Summer is less intense and there are bare splotches and golden brown leaves showing up more frequently each week.

There are still no days at less than 90 degrees and still no nights in the 60’s forecasted for this region but it cannot be long now. Gone are the upper nineties although there still might be a day or four, but triple digit heat seems to have slipped away quietly. Summer is alive and well, certainly, but it is less intense.

I might mow again in two weeks then again in three. And then once more? We’ll see. But the wasps who are trying to make a living this late in the year aren’t going to have much time to build or breed. The year is drawing down, like a Summer day in late August, where the intensity is giving way to a wistful feeling of ending sooner than later.

Take Care,
Mike


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