What it’s really like

I confess: that stuff about the weed wrench on the hill – it was fiction; I made it up. I saw an advertisement for this wonderful tool and I thought, ‘this is what it will be like.’ So I wrote it down. Reality is different. There’s very little of this ‘set, clamp, and bend’ stuff. I carry out a pick-ax and the weed wrench (it isn’t even green; it’s orange), and I dig into the hard-scrabble until I expose enough base stalk to get a grip on, then strain and pull from a half-dozen directions to rip a single large plant free. There are a lot of plants out there. At the rate of four or five an hour I’m not going to clear them all this season. There’ll have to be a fall-back plan for the rest. I’m thinking of knocking the tops off the survivors with a power tool just before flowering. That way, I might keep them from seeding, but leave enough stalk to get a grip on next spring.

Some things are true, though. It is exhausting. I raise the ax and that orange chunk of iron until my arms simply won’t anymore. I do pause a lot to review whatever success I’ve had. And it is me on that hill, living. I have friends who ‘work’ on themselves. I don’t like the language of therapy, and I don’t give a fig for self-awareness – but it’s what I’m doing out there: reconstructing, repackaging, resolving. Call it what I will, I can’t get away from it.

I really am crazy. I’m pretty sure of that. It’s inherited, so I’m not fully responsible. I want the world as it is to be – just, well, wrong. Like the whole thing’s a big misunderstanding. I’m willing to drop everything – everything – to clutch at that straw. I would have been an excellent disciple for Jesus Christ. ‘Abandon everything and follow me.’ Off I would go. Until the next pretty girl appeared by the side of the road.

But I’m too well-intentioned and practical (and just plain scared) to plunge in all the way. At the last minute I’d say, ‘well, Jesus, you know, it doesn’t look like anybody else is coming right now, so…’ Jesus would smile that warm, encouraging smile of his, and I would know he loved me, and he would walk off into the distance.

I’ve been admired, of course, as I struggle along. Someone might look over once in a while – notice me in my resigned sadness, affecting my calm understanding – and be impressed for one reason or another. But touch me and there’s a frightening disintegration, then the disappointing recognition I’m just another broken record. I learned how to survive at a distance, and distant is all I’ll likely be. At my best I’m empathetic, kind, and even wise. But I am alone. I seek that out.

 

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