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The Difference

Published in the six Nashoba Publishing papers on Friday, 11 October 2002

Company coming! After a summer of neglect, Ward and I were trying to get the yard under control.

Gone was the crabgrass that had overrun the walk to the house: you could again see the rounded, flowing shapes of the stones, the elegant curve of the path. Not only was the lawn freshly mown ... but now, on its perimeter, with the two-foot tall fringes of untrimmed grass removed, you could see the low-growing plants at the edges of flower beds.

In the three-foot strip we made across the front of the yard for parking, so cars won't be entirely on the street, Ward had spent many hours digging up all the weeds, and the unimproved soil there, bare sand, held the marks of his raking like a Japanese temple garden.

Between that and the lawn, a low retaining wall had been falling apart. A pile of rocks to repair it with had lain for two years in the middle of the parking area — a complex speed bump that must have annoyed many a driver (including the long-suffering mail delivery person).

With the new rocks added, Ward could extend the wall a bit farther; he curved it gracefully around the mailboxes at the end. A metal pole supports four of them; it had been leaning, from a drunk's driving into it one New Year's Eve. Next-door neighbor Paul Sebring drove his tractor over, and in low gear nudged it ve-e-e-ry gradually, till it was upright again.

Past the first level of lawn, held up by another rock border, the first flower bed has had, for the past four years, a gaping hole in the middle — as I gradually found new homes for what was there, in order to put something different in. Finally now I'd filled the hole with enriched soil and new plants. Other flowerbeds were weeded, and plants that were falling over got little wire fences to hold them up.

My design for the yard was once again emerging from the chaos that had grown up. Ann Donovan, who lives across the street, paused as she drove by to say "It looks good! What's different?" I laughed: the difference was a lot of small details, adding up to a big effect.

It would look good for our guests, but only those of us who had seen it both ways could appreciate the difference.

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© Copyright 2002 Catherine Holmes Clark