How Nobody’s Park Became Mine
There is a little tri-corner piece of property, probably less than a quarter acre, nestled among my house and three others. I walk by it every morning and watch it fill up with weeds. The owner hasn’t lived in his house for maybe 15 years. Once or twice a year he sends a yard man to clean up the little park. But the weed cycle soon takes over again.
I have been particularly offended by the nasty little round black sticker weeds that peppered my clothes. They were the devil to brush off. So I decided to weed them myself when the flowers were still in bloom, before the beastly little stickers formed. It only took two years to get rid of them. I found that a wonderful thing. Almost magical. Why had I put up with the stickers for ten years? Not my property, I guess was the reason. I’m not supposed to take care of it.
Which reminds me of a big fight my children had many years ago over a small flower garden I had made for them in our front yard. Each child wanted “my own garden.” I don’t remember if I convinced them or not but I do recall telling them that “this garden belongs to anyone who works in it.” Perhaps I only convinced myself.
Anyway, back to my neighbor’s park. After the stickers, the next arrival on the weed scene were thistles. Beautiful purple at first, their prickly leaves hurt. They ultimately produced a burst of seed fluff that sowed little thistle seeds all over my yard. It took me four years to get rid of the thistles in my own yard. So I finally made war on the thistles.in the little park so they wouldn’t infect my property. That took me another four years. Although, to be truthful, the last years only produced one or two stalwart stragglers that had evaded my murderous hand. Or glove, as you couldn’t touch the spiny leaves with your bare hand.
But I never even considered tackling the wild mustard that grew in thick and healthy after the winter rains started. Oh, I made a stab at pulling out the biggest plants nearest my own unmustarded part of the yard, when the ground was damp and it was easy. But it was discouraging-there were so many. And the hill on the side near the owner’s house was too steep to stand on. Mustard, mustard everywhere. It couldn’t be helped. I didn’t have the time. After all, I had wild mustard in my own field that I still struggled with, pushing them back a few yards each year.
But all of a sudden, for some unknown reason, last month my weeder’s eyes gleamed ominously at the helpless wild mustard seedlings covering the dark earth like a green 5 o’clock stubble. Yes, it was daunting. But, heck, it wasn’t like my four acres, it was just a little triangle park. Maybe I could just hoe the now fragile green nasties for ten or fifteen minutes every morning. Heck, I could always quit, couldn’t I?
But I didn’t quit. After three weeks there was only a small patch of green left. Hooray, I thought, I could finish it today!! I called my next-door neighbor whom I thought might be the only one at all interested in celebrating with me my humble victory.
“Do you have five minutes to spare,” I asked. I want to show you my progress on the little park. It’s hard to believe but I think I’ve almost done away with all the wild mustard. I want you to bear witness to the last green patch.”
Alas! All she said was “could I make it another day?” Her hair was up in curlers and she was busy washing windows. She’s the older generation like me. We’re the generation that still washes our own windows. We do it slow, a few at a time. Such menial “woman’s work” hasn’t been yet been gentrified out of our blood.
“Are you going to plant some wild flowers,” she suggested. I kind of bristled at that. Maybe I was just over- sensitive but if she wasn’t interested enough to come and look, how come she was telling me how to do it? Or, on the other hand, maybe that was her way of showing her interest. I had some wild flower seeds but they were expensive and such a few came in the little $4 packet. Although I did have some left over from a large project on my own property after the 2007 wild fire took all my trees.
“I hadn’t thought of that,” I answered. “I don’t think they’ll grow without being watered but I happen to have some so I’ll throw a few down and see how they do.”
But I couldn’t wait for “another day” to finish. Rain was predicted in two days and I needed at least one day to look for stragglers and throw down some wild flower seeds. So alone and unheralded I raised my hoe in salute, cleared the last small patch of wild mustard, threw down some wildflower seeds and congratulated myself. It wasn’t like I’d won the Nobel prize. But still, it felt pretty good as I leaned on the hoe and surveyed “my park.”