It was Labor Day, and Sherry thought the brush behind our house could use some laboring over. As for me, I never wish to compete with the power of nature and its thorny ability to defeat me in each season.
The overgrown spot in question was just on the other side of a dry creek bed. We had left it alone for years, perhaps decades, and now sagebrush, mixed with willow trees, tough-looking wildflowers and bushes with names I can’t pronounce had grown up, and decayed, and grown up again. The spot has been a home to many. Underneath all of that living, green stuff were complex pathways and nesting spots for bobcats, squirrels, snakes, rabbits, birds and bears.
For years, Sherry and I had some robust dialogue about what we should do with this swath of land. A smidgen of sloth and a sense of “just letting nature be” had worked for me in the past. “And what about the little animals?” I implored. Sherry reminded me of the many hundreds of acres of public land just beyond us, beckoning to house more wildlife. She unleashed a new term: “home ignition zone,” that should be cleared to protect our house from the wildfires raging through the western states.
Of course Sherry won, so we spent our Labor Day laboring. We had a pick, a pair of pruning shears made to work on little gardens in big cities, and three rusting saws we found in the garage. The fight was on. On our side, Sherry and I had determination, plenty of cool water to drink and a wavering sense of what we were saving our property from.
Nature had so much more. She came at us with thorns that slapped our arms and faces, spiders who liked their nests in the rotten wood untouched, and root systems that had grown strong and entangled with age. Nature also made it a very warm September day that offered no soft, soothing breeze.
In the heat of the battle, I looked to our dogs for support. From a shady tree on their grassy side of the creek bed, I just knew all three pups were laughing at me.
Six hours later, Sherry and I retreated, sweaty, bloody and welted. We carried our puny winnings over to a waiting trailer and dumped them in. They looked so small and insignificant.
On this Labor Day, nature had soundly defeated us.
As it should be forevermore.