Living takes constant vigilance. I am thinking of the pond on our property and the vegetation that grows relentlessly during this time of year. It fills me with dread, really, because I know that I need to attend to it. The poison ivy vines choke the trees, the black swallow-wort is sending it’s shoots right up in the air needing nothing to climb on, the brambles with their peace offering of fruit, the red twig dogwood growing it’s branches out and right back into the ground—the procreation exhausts me just looking at it. I see myself hacking and pulling up all of it, sweating and covered in bugs. One might say why not just let it all go wild? I’m sure, to some, I have let it go wild. On the other hand, an amount of pruning and oversight is, I think, important otherwise you will be swallowed whole. I don’t like to think of it as a battle necessarily, but in these parts it is very important to keep growth somewhat in check, mostly due to ticks.
I sometimes liken this kind of vigilance to myself. We humans need constant upkeep it seems, both physically and emotionally. Sometimes it feels hard to keep up. The weeds in my heart are overgrown and are in desperate need of pruning. Yesterday, I hiked up in the Shawangunks, a range of low-rolling mountains that I feel particularly close to. They are old and their edges are softened by time, and in them I find a particularly soothing quality when I walk through their stone outcroppings, amid blueberry and huckleberry bushes, and the acres of sweetfern with their evocative scent. I sat by a pool of water, a place I’ve been visiting for thirty years now, and scanned the scenery. I could recall spending time there at twenty years of age, the voices of my memories echoing in my mind, yet the land seemed impervious to my need to remember. It just was: surrounded by high clusters of wild rhododendrons, their faint pink blossoms filled with large bumble bees, the rushing water flowing over the rocks like it has done for so many years that it’s beyond my ken.
The water takes on a golden glow from the native rocks and the algae that blooms on them. I couldn’t resist the beckoning cold mountain pool and slid in, the water yielding to me effortlessly. It was both shocking and soothing. I got out dripping, my skin tingling flashes of electricity, both warm and cold. I almost hadn’t gone that morning for a simple hike in the mountains, but it’s so good for the soul. It’s upkeep, the time spent is a worthwhile fee to clear the heart of those vines that bind.