Friday, December 11, 2015

Metaphor of the Day

This isn't going to be political, and what humor there is to be found will be light, but I have a story I've wanted to tell, and darn it, I think I'm going to.

Anyway, I really hate yard work. It's not the mowing that I hate. I don't mind that. I really don't mind any of the physical work, actually. What I hate is the fact that my entire yard is full of nasty stuff.

And I'm not just talking the dog poop.

I have a yard that is just slightly bigger than your average postage stamp. It takes about 15 minutes to mow on a good day. Twenty if the day is not so good.

But climbing up the front porch, and all over the fence to the north, I have theses pretty little flowers that look like the flowers on a tomato plant, only purple. They eventually give way to big, red, juicy-looking berries that attract lots of birds. Turns out they are named for there pretty little flowers; Belladonna, also known as deadly nightshade.

Also along the fence line, I have these plants that put out big cancer-tumor-looking nasty green berries that turn purple in the fall (and stain the heck out of anything unlucky enough to come in contact with the juice. These are Common Pokeweed. Very common, I guess.

Then, all along the driveway and into the backyard, as well as along the fence, I have little green vines with little clusters of three oily-looking leaves. Yep, Poison Ivy.

Then, because the neighbors behind us have (or had - it was cut down about three weeks ago) a huge sumac tree, I get sumac sprouts popping up all over the place. Six years ago, I went and cleared these out and came up with a rash so bad they could have made a horror movie about it. It lasted over six weeks and only then started cleating up because I got a steroid shot. And as it dried, I could run my fingers over the blisters and they would pop like bubble wrap.

Not a good summer.

A year and a half ago, I ran over a mess of poison Ivy with the lawnmower, and it aerosolized, got into my lungs and took my voice away. It mostly came back, but I will likely never sing again. And yes, I could sing before.

I've used weed killers, and tried cutting the stuff out, but the surrounding area seems to be full of the stuff, so it keeps coming back.

And every time I get a case, it seems to get worse.

So, you can see why I hate yard work.

I try to wait until late fall, early winter to try to remove what I can, so the leaves are gone, and the oils are mostly dried up, which is where this story gets interesting.

Or at least a little less uninteresting.

I had a sumac tree growing up in one corner of the yard. I'd tried clearing it out the year before, but it grew back from the stump, and, as it grew higher and the branches and leaves were high enough that they didn't interfere with my work, I decided to leave the tree there for a while. The shade was kind of nice.

So, anyway, earlier this fall, I noticed these green pod-looking things laying on the ground und the tree, and I looked up, and there were more hanging from the branches. I couldn't remember seeing these on sumac trees before, just the bright purplish-red berries that I remember from years past.

And that was when I realized: Not a sumac tree at all. I went to my handy dandy internet search engine and I found out that, though the leaves are VERY similar to a those of a sumac, what I had in my backyard was, in fact, a walnut tree.

And the funny thing is, there is not another walnut tree anywhere else on my street.

So (and this is where the metaphor part starts), in the midst of all these poisonous plants that have the potential to cause sickness, discomfort and death, there is one tree growing straight and tall, a tree that not only adds beauty to  the landscape, but provides shade in the summer and delicious, nutritious food in the fall.

A number of different metaphors sprang to mind almost immediately, some stronger than others, I thought it might represent the Christian Church, or perhaps my particular flavor of Christianity amongst the others, I thought it might represent the United States amongst the nations of the world.

And those metaphors may be valid to varying degrees.

But the metaphor I chose is this: I want to be the walnut tree. In the midst of the chaos and malefaction in the world (and the dog poop), I want to grow straight and tall. I want to provide shelter from the heat of the day, and for my words to provide nourishment and comfort to those that need it and perhaps help my kids to grow straight and tall themselves. And when I'm gone perhaps I can leave behind some trace that, like the wood of the walnut tree, can be used to create something that will make someone's world a better place.

And so I try. Some days I have more success than others, some days, it seems, no success at all.

But I keep trying.


  1. Sounds good,,,as long as you don't add any to MY desserts!

  2. You say that now, but come the Zombie Apocalypse, you'll be BEGGING for my nuts!

  3. That did NOT come out the way I'd intended.

  4. Walnut trees are filthy. They drop those pods all over your yard and they turn black. The juice from them stains everything it touches and is permanent. When I was a kid we and our neighbors had five walnut trees across our back yards. The neighbor kids and I decided to have a walnut pod fight. When my mother saw my clothes she said if I ever did that again she would beat me. The clothes were ruined.
    Enjoy your walnut tree.