Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Taming the Wilderness

Two days now, I've been attempting to restrain that which has worked against restraint since the fall of Adam.

Though a woman, my arms, legs are laced with the marks of the curse of man. But even where the visible shows no trace, my invisible, inner parts feel the effects as well.

My tools are made for the thorn and thistle. I swing the axe when saplings' diameter is too thick for long-handled loppers. My youngest, Emerson, watches me with interest.

One swing. Two. Three, then four. With this six foot high "tree" growing close between the mighty oak's feet, the angle is difficult, making my strokes more hesitant lest I wound the tree I'm actually trying to protect.

"It not working," Emerson tells me.

I glare at my two-year-old, biting back several speeches I'd like to give him, all of which would make his eyes glaze over in seconds. "Yes, it's working, Emerson. Mommy's just not as strong as daddy is."

The work is hard, slow, and not terribly noticeable, but I press on. A year ago, a small forest separated two inlets at our family's end of the hay field. A bulldozer and my father-in-law removed most of that forest to make way for our driveway, and for our house to be set in the middle of the larger of those inlets.

Save for the few remaining oaks of that forest located a football field away from my door, our house is without shade. In south Louisiana, the direct heat of even our springtime sun can mean no playing outside after the first few hours of morning.

So, this quasi-shaded area has become our children's playground, providing extended playing hours for already-sun-tinted cheeks and appendages bronzed despite daily use of sunscreen.

My labor comes from the small trees growing bark-to-bark with each of the large shade oaks, sapping away sparse water during summers of drought...that, and the thick poison ivy ropes crawling ever-rampant up the trunks while sending tender runners outward beneath the dirt and across the play area.

The ease of spraying a strong batch of Roundup just won't undo the curse. Each vine must be cut, then treated, probably several times, before it is eradicated. As I strive to pull yard upon yard of rooted-to-bark runners down from high above my head and then put them in the fire, its rash-inducing leaves and bark brush my hair, scrape my arms, and leave fibers all on my clothing.

By day's end, the perimeters of eight trees are cleaned out, and my double-edged ax is starting to develop a sheen on one of its blades, polished by the repetitive slicing. As I stiffly gather children indoors, away from the hot afternoon sun, I appreciate my handiwork. That's when I gasp, noticing that even with the vines down, the tree still bear the marks. "And when He had said this, He showed them both His hands and His side. The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord." (Jn. 20:20).

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