Snake On The Grass

Fri, 04/20/2018 - 7:45am

Saturday the sun came out, the wind died in the middle of the day, and I went out for a few minutes to rake a few weeds from a long-ignored flower bed. 

Years ago, when I paid more attention to such things, a bonus pack of some odd iris arrived with an order of baby plants. They all thrived as long as tended; the unrequested iris, alone, have survived neglect. 

Once, they were in a little bed at a corner of the house, an area encircled with beach stones — created during a weird little detour in my life — pretty yellow flowers. They were a welcome splash of late spring color, then a stand of green holding true as summer browned the yard. 

Last year I finally noticed the extent of other. . . stuff growing up from that patch, primarily the invasive vines that just appear anywhere they can set down roots, and I meant to remove them but was sidetracked, then daunted when I realized how many and how great they had become while I was paying them no mind. 

Saturday, finally, I took out the rake for “a few” minutes of pulling away once-bright iris stalks turned to pale, fallen ruins, then went back for the loppers, hoping they had not frozen for lack of use. There were different vines, closer to the door, to be chopped, then, given the sunshine, I turned back to the climbers at the corner, smooth and twisting, thorned and bent, interwoven, reaching all the way up the downspout to the gutter, a story and three quarters from the top of the foundation.

I had noticed, before, that the iris had been spreading out from that long ago set ring of stone; what I had not realized, they truly had migrated, the spring stalks rising only outside that boundary. All that remained contained were husks of old bulbs, shriveled and dry underfoot. 

The vines came down more easily than I had expected, not undoing the pipe or gutter, thankfully, ending just shy of the roof shingles. Even a strange little tree had taken root, some scrub brush, and even if it had to it potential of glory it was too close to the house to leave in place, a lesson learned when my mother let flourish a volunteer maple beside the old stone foundation. She came from a town in Massachusetts where trees were a given in yards and most attempts at planting here came to naught so she let it go too long, until it wound its roots around the big stones and facilitated worsened cellar flooding. 

The little tree would wait for someone with a saw and I went round the corner where I knew the multiflora roses were  making an attempt at colonization, basking in the southern sun, away from the northeast wind, creeping up into the wooden shingles, having the temerity to show new bright green growth even in this cold, gray April. 

These are the tasks I always underestimate and always go out unprepared, leaving hardly worn work gloves in a drawer. A single thorn sliced my skin, a shallow bleeder that turned my whole finger bright red but one I ignored in deference to another childhood lesson: bleeding cleans a cut. 

Autumn bounded about, nosing the old foundation, chasing, I presumed, some varmint roused by the activity and trying to find shelter in the winter dead grass. My dog seemed to have no success but it was not until she went off to check on something else that I noticed a snake on the grass, just a little snake that seemed not quite but almost dead which made me wonder if its state was real or feigned. I left it and went to dragging my vine harvest across the twig-littered grass to the edge of the field. 

There was, that same day, a turtle in the road, just a regular springtime turtle making its way from one pond to another, in this time when there are so many watery choices that will not exist come August. It was not a big snapper, not one of those wildly prehistoric creatures that have the disconcerting ability to raise themselves up out of seeming lethargy and gallop across pavement.

Saturday, for that hour I worked in the sun in a cotton sweater, spring seemed to have settled upon us. By late day the wind was blowing cold, the start of the ramp up to the gale that shut down the boats both Sunday and Monday.

Sunday morning the beach was blowing across the Neck Road, a pale drizzle on black that felt like a sturdy speed bump of settled sand that had been borne on a damp wind. The daffodils that had been dancing in the sun a day earlier were either shivering or, like the masses in Esta's Park, finding strength in numbers and standing defiant against the weather. 

The storm came, again, but without as much rain as forecast or as much as fell in other locales across the region. I was glad I had finally pulled the vines from the drainpipe but became newly aware of others on the backside of the house that need attention as well. Reports of extreme weather filtered in, snow in Nebraska and Michigan and much, much closer to home.

It was late Monday, Patriots Day observed, when the sky had broken, that I went out, able to stop and see the sand on the road, drifted in the storm, then plowed from the pavement, leaving flattened areas of dark tan and puddles receding even before the sun shone. 

There was no rainbow but later there was the music of spring, heavy in the surf rolling up from the shore to my yard, light in the birdsong filling the air in the interlude before the peepers start their chorus.