Sunday, January 9, 2011

Green Thumbed

I woke up this morning after four hours' sleep and decided that I would do something that I had put off for a long time - cleaning the backyard.

The last time I remember cleaning the backyard was for my brother's 30th birthday celebrations, oh, let's say two years ago.

Okay, I am not your typical slob... I do clean the house when inspired (every few months) and I like a relatively organised space. I am not a neat freak, though - it's not like I have colour-coded my underwear (anymore) and I am happy to leave certain things unwashed in the sink until there is a critical mass (or until the leftover food on the plate starts to grow legs).

My previous housemate, Li and I took up the enormous task of cleaning the backyard two years ago. Like explorers, we took our gloves and machetes (read: meat cleaver) to the jungle that was the backyard and started pulling away at weeds and hacking away at overhanging branches. I had the added advantage that Li worked part time as a gardener in one of the local houses to supplement his student income.

Several hours later we stood over the empty courtyard, victorious once more over all that nature had to throw at us - some poor defenceless grass and a few helpless branches.

This time, however, I have had to go at cleaning up two years of accumulated mess alone. I lifted up a garbage bag of leaves that had been sitting there for some time to reveal a tiny ecosystem of earthworms and a hundred silvery wriggling things (which I thankfully did not recognise) as well. Gross.

As I pulled away at the grass and weeds with my rubber-gloved hands, the number of creepy-crawlies amplified - here a spider pregnant with eggs, there a fluttering moth, and mosquitoes everywhere.

The tree in the back had overgrown again, and I looked pensively at it after an hour or so of clearing the weeds and dead leaves below. I finally got my brother to bring the meat cleaver again, and I whispered a quick apology before hacking away at the branches.

You know that scene in ninja/kung fu movies where the hero cuts through a forest deftly with his sword and bamboos and branches fall around and behind him as he takes a stance and faces off his enemy coolly?

That was so not me.

The meat cleaver was blunt, and after hacking at the green branches for ten minutes, the branches had barely a graze. The tree shook in the wind, as if laughing at me, and saying 'Is that all you got?' before smacking me around with some of its branches.

I remember all my training in my sporadic years as a Boy Scout (Tenderfoot extraordinaire) and took to the branches but this time at a 45 degree angle and then pulling as hard as I could as the bark showed. It started to work, and soon it was me laughing at the tree, cutting off its multiple low lying limbs and clearing the pathway for the sunlight so that the weeds below could grow healthily once more.

Oops. I think I just undid a morning's worth of hard work.

Random Memories: Eight Years Old  

I remember when we were still kids, we used to have a garden outside our home in TD. We had a mango tree and a papaya one as well, with a healthy layer of grass underneath to complete the Home of The Year look.

Every few months, the grass would grow to a point where we were sent out to go and 'pluck the grass'. We would grab at it with our bare hands, throwing it into a pile in a corner, wishing all the time that we owned a goat that would eat our work away.

The reward after two hours of hard work was that you got to set the grass on fire. This was before the days of hazes and environmental consciousness and pollution. We would set a newspaper on fire at the kitchen stove and then run through the dining room, walk gingerly past the living room and then try and stuff it into the stack of grass.

I remember as kids we were entrusted with the task of blowing up the fire - we would huff and puff until our faces went blue and we staggered a little from the hyperventilation - it was then we decided fanning it with newspapers were the smarter option.

I would laugh gleefully as the flames finally consumed the grass, sending puffs of smoke and dancing pieces of charred newspaper up into the air. All that was left in the end was a mound of ashes which we used to fertilise the trees, and the... grass and... weeds again.

Oops. I think I just undid two hours worth of hard work.

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