HIS_OvergrownBushes-full

This has been a very strange year for me. Circumstances forced me into the role of “homeowner” — a character I’ve never felt comfortable with, and a performance I’ve never been terribly good at. The year began with having to assess and clear out the contents of our family home (for nearly 50 years), with the intention of listing it for sale. There was never any question — debts had to be settled, and it was the only way I could manage it. The place was in rough condition, due to years of necessary neglect (life happens). I undertook a few necessary repairs, so that people wouldn’t get electrocuted and the walls wouldn’t crumble and left it at that. The house was sold “as is.”

I then turned to my own Massachusetts hovel. I say that lovingly, but the place was a mess. Not quite as bad as the Connecticut home, but close. I suddenly found myself with some funds to clear dead trees, clear baby trees from the gutters, replace a leaking roof, remove godawful vermiculite from an attic, fix broken windows, replace a rotting porch and steps — you get the idea. We’re not talking about a designer kitchen or a marble bathroom. It’s a 2-bedroom ranch built in 1955. It is what it is. But property values in the Boston area being what they are, it made sense to sink some money in.

My uncertain foray into the world of home improvements coincided with a major Saturn return reassessment of my life. What should I get rid of? What do I want to keep? How should I move forward? And the big, all-encompassing “Who Am I?”

Welcome to The Home Improvement Series.

Dead Trees and Frightful Shrubbery

The Home Improvement Series, Part 1 of 10

The problem: One day in early March, after a home inspection from my homeowners’ insurance company, I received a notification of substandard conditions. It was as it sounds. I was threatened with the cancellation of my policy if I didn’t immediately clear dangerously overhanging tree limbs and plants growing in the gutters. Though not specifically outlined in the letter, there were also overgrown bushes and vines that threatened to swallow the house whole.

I had begun to cut what things I could manage with a hand saw, leaving a graveyard of forlorn trunks. Plus, there was the crabapple tree, which had all three trunks felled by different years’ storms, one after another. Sadly, none fell into the street (which would have brought out the town DPI crew to clear it), but happily, none came through my bedroom window.

Yes, it bloomed like that, but mowing the lawn was a bitch.

Yes, it bloomed like that, but mowing the lawn was a bitch.

The metaphor: I had let my insecurities and fears grow unattended all around me, and they had taken over to the point where I couldn’t see clear of them. Without a complete clearing of past ideas of oneself and one’s situation, it is impossible to move boldly forward into a brighter future. Uncertainties, like tangled vines and gnarled branches, had blocked out the sun and prevented more delicate thoughts and newer growth from taking hold and flourishing.

After the dead trees and unsightly shrubbery pressed up against the vinyl siding were removed, each stump was pulverized to prepare the ground for something new to be planted, replacing the old with the new. It is critically important to fully remove the old ways and old ideas that keep one from moving forward in one’s life.

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