Sticks and Stones
When my parents moved into their “retirement” house in Oshkosh, the builder didn’t do a very good job on the landscaping. Contractors weren’t supposed to plant anything, but top soil was to have been spread, making the growing of a lawn possible.
Instead, the soil was mostly poor, and there were lots of stones – big-ish and small. Some people would have ordered a load of top soil, but not my dad.
Rather than take the easier route, he sectioned off the yard and, bit by bit and day by day, he sorted through the soil, putting the clay on the creek side (it was a little creek that didn’t always have water in it) and setting aside the stones and rocks for future projects.
You would see him out there on his hands and knees, digging with a hand trowel, picking through the dirt, and eventually planting grass seed in small sections, and watering it every other day. I don’t want to guess how many hours he put into that lawn, but before it was all planted in grass, many dozens of hours had gone by.
He was someone who took the long view of things. His main hobby was planting trees on two different properties my parents owned. Not for Christmas trees, but for lumber a generation or two after he was gone.
I can’t claim to have that kind of vision, but, well, I have developed a mild fascination with improving soil, removing stones from it, and finding another use for them. And, after our yard got kind-of torn up last summer, I’ll have plenty of opportunity to become one with the earth, so to speak.
It’s funny, but I had been writing this column for ten or more years before it hit me that my writing paralleled the monthly newsletter my dad wrote and distributed to a few hundred subscribers for many years. Now the sifting through soil parallel has come to light. I’m sure there are other qualities and predilections that I inherited from my father – both good and bad. From my Mother too.
What worries me is that someday my daughters will start taking on some of my qualities, like questionable humor (not inappropriate; just questionable as to whether it is funny).
By the time my dad passed away the yard looked really nice. The grass and trees were green and growing, and the flowers my mom tended provided some nice, colorful accents.
I guess we all have some kind of impact on the world around us, be it our yards, our homes, our communities, and especially our children. Sometimes the things and people we should spend the most time on don’t get enough attention, while unimportant things with little screens control our days.
Anyway, I look forward to a summer and fall of yard work, and of thinking about my dad from time to time as I hear my knees creak and snap when I struggle to stand up with a bucket full of sticks and stones.