This spring brings yardwork, aches and pains

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 10, 2006

As the years pass, my urge to be outdoors grows, perhaps because the number of days is finite.

In his poem celebrating the beauty of cherry blossoms, Housman mourned having only 50 springs left in which “to look at things in bloom.” I have a lot fewer springs than that.

Summer encourages idleness, but spring demands action. The list of outdoor chores to complete before summer is long, and the window of opportunity in which to do them is small.

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So I was conscientiously shortening the list on a recent Saturday, enjoying the physical labor and taking some pride in the results.

I had cut back some of the ivy that threatens to spill over the wall by the drive and pressure washed the streak of color that had tracked onto the concrete after the water authority fixed a leak under the road and left a red clay bog in front of our mail box.

There was plenty of afternoon left, and I had more that I wanted to check off my list.

It was not the infirmities of age but the impetuosity of youth that put the brakes on my progress.

I saw our neighbor’s son working in their side yard, and I stopped to talk with him.

Their yard is slightly higher than ours, and there’s a short retaining wall to keep the dirt in place. I usually step on the top of the wall to reach the neighbor’s yard.

On this day, though, in front of the wall were some cross ties I’d gotten for a new retaining wall farther down the slope.

I did not notice that a couple of the ties were stacked precariously. I stepped on one and it shifted suddenly.

In a flash I was sprawled in the flower bed with my ribs fetched up against a surprisingly stout bush. I don’t think I could have caught my balance if I were 18.

Nothing seemed to be broken, so I got to my feet and carried on long enough to regain my dignity. Then I went inside and looked up information on treating bruised ribs.

What I found was that ribs take time to heal. My brother, a relative whippersnapper at four and a half years my junior, and I concluded a few years ago that you’ve reached middle age when everything takes twice as long to heal.

I crashed through that milestone some years ago.

But after giving the ribs a couple of days of rest, I couldn’t stand inactivity any longer. It wasn’t a good idea to do the things on the list that called for digging in the dirt and moving heavy things, but I had to be outside doing something.

Along the roadside, the grass and weeds are not growing vigorously yet, and naturalized daffodils are dotted along the embankment.

Some county prisoners had picked up litter along the road a couple of weeks ago, but I had noticed a fresh deposit of cans, bottles and paper wrappers, so I got a plastic bag and my sharp stick and went out for a stroll.

Spring seems to bring litter along with the daffodils. Its growth coincides with the rising of the lake, and I suspect that much of it comes from vehicles using the boat ramp down the road from us.

I think that most of the litter that collects on the roadside is simply tossed from moving vehicles, but some of it comes from a common way of getting rid of trash without actually committing the act.

You toss it in the back of your truck or boat and let it blow out. It reminds me of the girls in my youth who sucked at cigarettes through a drinking straw so they could say that a cigarette hadn’t touched their lips.

It was such a sparkling day that even the thought that, like the poor, the slobs will always be with us couldn’t dampen the mood.

There are some rainy days in the forecast, and perhaps by the time they’ve passed

I’ll be healed enough to dig in the dirt and move heavy things. Spring does have an urgency about it.

-Bill Brown can be contacted at 377 Quail Hollow Drive, Dadeville 36853 or by e-mail at