Nina Simone sings “you know how I feel,” as I see the branches off my mystery bushes out back come down, one painful snip at a time. My partner takes the long handled clippers we bought last year to trim back the wild rose bushes in the front yard that inevitably grew over into my neighbor’s yard (I saw a statistic recently that the average space between Brooklyn homes is around 25 inches. Roses do not care).
We have made the difficult decision to bring these curious two grand bushes up out of the ground in the back yard. I did a little research last year on what they were (no conclusion there), and whether I might be able to transplant them somewhere (no takers). They were a birthday present from a dear friend of mine several years ago to help me put up more of a barrier than the wire fence that separated my yard from my neighbors when neighbors were moving into the house that had been empty since I moved in. I put up the bushes, and later a wooden fence. Good fences do make good neighbors, but an aging, sagging chain link fence with a couple new twiggy bushes in front of them, did not make a good fence. So a fence roughly 6 feet tall now separates my mystery bushes in the backyard from my neighbors’ often wandering squash. The squash still crawls up the phone post and, once a year, she knocks gently on the door and tiptoes gingerly through the house to climb a ladder and hack them down with the most wicked and destructive pair of gardening shears I’ve ever seen. That’s always around Ramadan, and I can usually count on a plate piled high with fish with tiny white bones (which, while a bit of a nuisance, are well worth the flavor they bring), resting on a bed of softly wilted rich green squash leaves, soaking up the salty juice surrounding the fish.
Now that I’ve lived next to the neighbor for some five years, share recipes with her, bring her dishes I’ve made when I think they won’t tempt her strict Halal diet, and always attend each others’ family birthday parties, the triple-layer chain link, wooden, and bush fence are no longer need. And down the bushes come to make room for small feet, small paws, maybe some plants. And, as I watch my partner finish his tedious work, I think back on the time I’ve had with these bushes which I have variously called dogwood or elderberry, though no positive identification ever could be made. Most of my time with them was spent realizing I’d missed the very small window of time to pick the berries (which of course would be a good thing if it turned out they were dogwood, some of which a small contingent claims are poisonous, though it’s hotly debated). Some of the time was spent admiring their pretty spray of white flowers but that’s a very short period of time later in the summer. More time was spent trying to keep the top leaves off the bottom of my clothes drying on the clothesline. So, all in all, I will miss them but I think it’s time they go and therefore time for me to let them go.
This is a good practice, anyway, to occasionally let things go to make room for new and better things to come into your life. It took me a long time to learn this but I did with about a year in clutterbusting therapy (which I highly recommend to anyone and everyone).
In the meantime, I watch the last of the big branches fall as Dianne Reeves sings in her bluest velvety voice, “Don’t cry. There’ll be another spring. I know our hearts will dance again. And sing again. So wait for me till then.” Good-bye mystery bush. Thanks for the helping me welcome in the springtimes.
I hope it’s not bad luck to do this on St. Patty’s Day.