The Moss And The Ivy

This winter, our landscape transformed in unexpected and vexing ways. The biggest change was the moss and the English ivy. I noticed the ivy first and wondered how it slunk so far so fast. We’ve lived in our house for twenty-five years, that’s one hundred seasons of English ivy. It’s always been where it’s always been, at bay and trimmed in place. Not this year. It doubled its territory.

I am now deeply at odds with the ivy. It gerrymandered my yard without my permission. It creeped like snipers, cementing a network of roots and far beyond its agreed-upon territory. At the same time, and unbeknownst to me, moss was propagating in the far reaches of our yard. It took a few weeks to notice the remarkable new carpet. This gave me time to build a singular resentment toward the ivy.

Opportunities for indignation surround me since ivy thrives throughout our landscape. In particular, I can’t ignore the block of English ivy beside our front door. I walked past it with pursed lips and a sense of helplessness day after day. Extracting the ivy looked like such a big, dirty, job, insurmountable for someone in an extended pandemic funk. Turns out it was a big, dirty job, but it was also satisfying.

The day I finally tore out the ivy, I had springtime pulsing through my veins. It was warm and sunny. On my knees with clippers and a tough girl attitude, I worked with determination and purpose, things I haven’t felt in a while. Playing tug of war with ropes of English ivy, I felt strong.

Still, the job was much bigger than I anticipated. Several root systems looked like a new hair knot, a loose mess and growing in every direction. Others moved straight for their target like heat seeking missiles. They all held their ground with remarkable strength. Eventually, I realized that anywhere I dug, I touched a length of root. The pile behind me grew tall. It was a war, and I eventually won.

All the while, the moss grew in peace. Its spongy and more vibrant than ever and remains reliably comforting. To a bare foot, it’s soft and tender. To a hand, it’s surprising and luxurious. It inspires good thoughts and perks your imagination. I’ve considered fairies bending their knees to hurl disks of wisteria seeds.

So far this season I’ve spent about six minutes with ivy for every thirty seconds with moss. I’ve huffed and puffed with ivy anger and barely stepped into the comfort of moss.

Even in our garden, one of my very favorite spots to be, I don’t always get my priorities straight.  Clearly, I should spend more time reflecting with the moss and far less time wrestling the ivy. That’s my garden goal this spring. It doesn’t seem like much, but I have to walk past the ivy to reach the moss. That’s right, walk past my nemesis to get to my love. I can’t get caught up in one if I want to reach the other. 

I am so thankful that there are new seasons every year, four chances to try again and work on being more grateful and less resentful. Four chances to step away from a war and walk on the moss beneath our feet. We only have so many seasons of life. At sixty, they are measured. Being more grateful and less resentful is hard work, but it’s really worth it.

I will beat back the ivy again. As for the moss, all I have to do is take a seat and feel the velvet.