The Nostalgia of Nature

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic

Thoughts about the feeling of nostalgia in regards to Nature's regrowth and reclamation of space.

The Nostalgia of Nature


Do you remember that scene in the movie Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire where the tall, impeccably groomed and enchanted hedges of the maze are rapidly closing in on the terrified competitors? Well, it's been my experience that the same thing (minus the terrified children) happens in real life, and I don't mean that metaphorically. I'm talking about nature replenishing itself, filling in empty spaces with new flora, reclaiming the earth. Mother Nature has her own quiet way of ensuring her survival. How strange it is that it leaves an unsettling and nostalgic feeling in my soul.
 

This reclamation, this regrowth can only be seen through the lens of time because it happens very slowly. Much like the growth of a child, it's barely noticeable when you see the same view day after day. Year after year, looking at my own half-acre plot, I can see the open areas slowly shrinking. Some trees have grown taller and wider, like the yard is ever so gradually closing in on me. As silly as it may sound, I wish I could turn back time and take a picture just for the sake of comparison in a before-and-after format. Then the difference would be noticeable immediately.
 

When I first moved to this house, I used to be able to walk under the branches of the enormous chestnut tree at the outer edge of the front lawn. I imagined that my future children would play there, maybe even hang a hammock. Now those branches droop all the way to the ground, making the leaf-covered floor inaccessible to this arthritic middle-aged woman. 
 

To add insult to injury, my driveway seems to migrate a little to the left each year as the brambles and tree limbs bully their way outward. Others would surely trim the branches and bushes back. I don't have the heart to fight the invading vegetation. I simply adapt by moving my car alongside it. 
 

While I feebly complain about nature's tightening grip on my yard, the hypocrite in me is even more bothered when my boundaries are changed without my consent. One of my crabapple trees was knocked over by a hurricane, punching an uncomfortable hole in the tree line. In my mind, the security and protection of my space was irreparably disturbed. It exposed the stark, ugly view of a construction site next door. That pathetic little old tree was a reminder of and a symbolic connection to my home in the Annapolis Valley, land of the yearly apple blossom festival. I'm angry and sad that it's gone. I blame the loss on the destruction of the neighboring forest. It opened an alley of wind from which my tree had previously been protected by said forest. Nature is replacing my missing tree with tall grass and rapidly-growing bushes, overtaking the old stump and roots. The hole will eventually be filled in, but it won't feel the same. You'll tell me to just plant a new apple tree, I suppose. Perhaps I will someday.
 

Recently, while visiting my childhood home on Morse Road and seeing the renovations that have taken place there, it struck me how the yard itself has changed, too. The row of thin, sparse bushes between our house and the neighbor's, through which we passed from yard to yard while playing outdoors as children, is now a solid strip of tall growth. The tallest tree back then was the yellow weeping willow. I used to think it would be nice to camp out under that willow in the summertime. Now, the two little spruce trees that Mom planted near the old well have skyrocketed, creating a huge natural privacy barrier between homes. Mom would probably like that. She liked her privacy. If it were up to her, she would have built an eight-foot wall around the whole yard (so her dogs could run, she would say).
 

The ancient, gnarled hardwood tree in the front corner of the yard, the one that had a smooth V at just the right height for little feet to begin a climb, the tree that had to be trimmed back every so often so as not to get in the way of the power lines, is barely recognizable to me. It still stands in the same spot, of course, stubbornly refusing to die or be replaced, but I found it difficult to trace the old familiar shapes in its skeleton like I used to be able to do. 
 

The green plastic and wire fence, installed by my father along the north side, is lost in a small jungle of new growth. The fence used to serve a purpose: it was a visible reminder to that neighbor that we did not associate with them, and their children were not welcome in our yard. (Mind you, we still played with one of the boys outside of our yard.) Seems petty now, but my parents had their reasons. 
The leaves and plants that have climbed that fence remind me of the old barn that used to slouch in the center of the property. It, too, was covered in green, leafy vines. I truly believe that during the barn's final years, the vines were the only things keeping it standing. In the summer, the vines bore clusters of small red berries which served as wonderful ammunition. They would explode and leave red stains on our clothing as we threw them at each other. It's a good thing our parents believed in having "play clothes" for us.

 

I was happy to see that the tall, straight pine from which my father's hand-made bird feeder hung is still standing on guard in front of the fence. Many hours were spent at the window watching the bluejays and squirrels compete for the seeds throughout the winters. Mom used to complain about having to trudge through the snow to refill the feeder when Dad was too unwell to do it anymore, but I know she secretly loved watching the pheasants return year after year to collect the fallout from the bird/squirrel war.
 

The two lilac bushes in that same section of the yard have grown back to full size. My father once cut them back in an attempt to help my springtime allergies. My bedroom window was just above them, and though I loved their purple scent wafting into my room, they made me cough at night, so Mom thought. I have since found out that I was, in fact, not allergic to them, so I was glad to see that they had fought their way back to life. I'm sure that happened soon after I left home, but seeing them again brought back memories as sweet as their perfume.
 

The small block of land behind the garage, which was home to a plum tree, a few blackberry bushes, and many other unidentified and impassable plants, is now overgrown in what we used to call bamboo.  I smiled when I heard the new owner call it bamboo, too. I never knew  the real name for it, but I remember my father burning that area to the ground to try to get rid of it. Regardless, it always came back and it now rules over its entire plot. 
 

Speaking of burning, Dad's old metal burn barrel still stands in the back corner, evoking memories of backyard bonfires in the summer. Brush, waste, pinecones, anything flammable went in that barrel. It was always an exciting and magical evening for us kids. The sparks shot up into the sky, falling and dying out before they hit the ground. That was during the time when my father maintained the property. He would never have let it grow wild like it is now.
 

When asked how far back the property goes, I said to the tree line in the back yard. It occurs to me now that the tree line is a bit closer to the house than it used to be. Looking at that wall of hardwoods and prickly shrubbery, I was reminded of the nightmares I used to have about a bear emerging from the little woods and chasing me. In my dream, I would run as fast as my chubby little legs could go until I reached the safety of the porch door. Somehow I always managed to slam that door shut before the bear caught me. Silly, the things we think about as children. Yet even at the age of 53, I can't look into those woods without glancing side to side, just in case. My brother cut a trail through those same woods to a pen he built for his donkey. Yes, donkey. (I know, right?) I noticed that the little trail is no longer visible, overgrown since we've been gone. 
 

I mentioned the slow migration of my driveway; the driveway of my childhood home has changed in its own way. My parents had placed a base of pebbles stretching the short distance from the road to their garage and a bit to the right for extra parking. Their dog was tied in that part of the yard, as he was too impulsive and silly to stay out of the road. His chain used to leave sweeping tracks through the gravel as he ran. But grass has since grown up through outer limits of the driveway, making it harder to tell where the gravel ends and the grass begins. 
 

In surveying the yard as a whole, I can see that if it weren't for some play equipment, an above-ground pool, and scattered slabs of firewood between the house and garage,  the little motorcycle track around the outside of the yard would still be viable. Good memories for every child who ever learned to ride in that yard, myself included. Riding around the house on Dad's little motorcycle was like a rite of passage for us all. 
 

How strange it is to me that the current owner sees this 3/4 of an acre exactly how it is now, yet all I can see is how it used to be and how much it has morphed over the decades. Her memories of it are just beginning. I'm trying desperately to hang on to mine.
 

I can't say I never expected to feel nostalgic about the actual land and the house, but I thought it would be mostly about the people who lived there. Now that both my parents are gone, I find it all to be intertwined in my head: that yard, that house, and my people. Combined, they are my greatest source of nostalgia. What a sad, unshakeable feeling it all gives me. Some people would say it's wrong that I choose to wrap myself in that feeling. I don't see that I have a choice in the matter. It's only natural to miss the best days (and places) of your life.
 

I started this writing talking about nature's regrowth and reclamation of empty spaces. If you believe in reincarnation, which I do, you could say that there will be spiritual regrowth for my parents. Perhaps that thought, like nature's drive to overcome adversity, will reclaim and fill the empty spaces that were created in my heart when they left me. 

Perhaps this was a metaphorical piece afterall.

 


Submitted: November 27, 2021

© Copyright 2022 Tammi Fitzpatrick. All rights reserved.

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