As I write this it’s Monday May 27, 2013. Memorial Day. A day off of work for Gerry and I.
I’m upstairs in my home office hiding out as three hard-working landscapers work in my back yard severely cutting back the treasured laurel trees that line our back fence and provide privacy from our too-close rear neighbours. Now and then I step to the window and look down on my yard, the changing landscape of my backyard, and fight back tears.
We’ve watched those laurels, planted by the previous owners, grow from four feet to height of twenty feet since we moved here six years ago. They’ve shielded us, provided shade on hot summer afternoons when we moved the lawn swing next to them, provided a refuge for birds, provided backdrop for photographs, in the spring their sweet perfume fills our yard.
Last winter, after a severe ice storm we woke to find them bowed over and I worried we would lose them but they were resilient, one more than the other, nevertheless they both stood up again and resumed their post as sentrys at the back of our yard.
This year they’ve hidden a dirty little secret and I’ve slept fitfully in recent weeks as a result, sometimes aided by a second glass of Chardonnay and, on one terrible night a half tablet of Ambien after which I cried myself to sleep.
Earlier this spring, on a rainy monsoon-like Sunday afternoon, Gerry called me to the window where we watched two rodents dash in and out from underneath the trees to snack on birdseed that had fallen from the bird feeders. What in the world were they? Surely not rats. Voles, moles, something, but surely not rats. For the past few weeks I have not dared venture out into my back yard.
My garden has lain neglected. I’ve closed the blinds at twilight afraid to look outside, afraid that I might catch a glimpse of something that would creep into my nightmares. I’ve had nightmares nevertheless.
Norway rats, I’ve learned, are not uncommon in this area; I’m thankful that I’ve lived here this long without encountering them. The bird feeders were removed immediately. Pest control confirmed they were rats and advised us to put out warfarin, which we did immediately. They also suggested that removing the trees would help. I resisted taking that action for as long as possible.
A couple of weeks ago, having spent a beautiful day taking photographs of rhododendrums, lupin, Himalayan blue poppies, and bonsai trees, Gerry and I were relaxing in the hot tub and I spotted one of the vermin run across the yard. Then I spotted another one. And I beelined it into the house and I’ve not stepped foot in the back yard since.
I have felt dirty, like something’s been wrong with me. I have walked through my days on auto-pilot, the fact that there is VERMIN in my backyard never far from my thoughts. I’ve threatened to move into out until the situation was resolved. I’ve felt physically ill and exhausted from lack of sleep. I’ve cried, I’ve prayed, and I’ve cried some more.
These feelings were once normal for me, the fact that they have felt foreign, is testimony to the changes that have occurred in my life since those dark days when what went on behind closed doors was a shameful secret. It occurred to me a few days ago that, as much as I am stronger and more self-confident, beneath that exterior that woman who lived a life of shame still resides ready to come out at the slightest provocation.
Today, my privacy hedge is being demolished, our backyard looks larger, I can stand in my kitchen and look at the windows of my neighbour. Lord willing, by the time this post is published, all of the rodents will have met their demise and/or permanently moved on. I’m reminded how sometimes there has to be a tearing down in order to rebuild–and that this is true in life as well as landscaping.
Goodbye laurels, dear old friends, I’ll miss you.
But I will sleep well tonight.