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Garden lockdown – the battle of the briars

De Facto

De Facto
Liamy MacNally

A priest gave a great definition of sin on RTÉ’s Outlook many years ago. “Sin is like dandruff. You can control it but you’ll never get rid of it.” I thought of him as I was consigned to the garden in the good weather of Easter Week.
There I was sweating in the noonday sun, trying to pull up briars. They have more attitude and are more brazen than a politician at election time. You grab a hold of it and you think you have it under control when you discover that it just goes on and on. They are pure sin.
These yokes are not just spread out in the garden, they are also interconnected – like political parties. You could say their existence is very similar to a supply and confidence agreement.
In a sense, they depend on each other to do what they do best, spread their tentacles so that they have little appendages of power everywhere. And they do not become unstuck easily (in the garden or in Dáil Éireann).
If you’re lucky enough to trace them back to the root then the whole escapade starts again, except that this time it’s underground. And tracing the root structure to remove it is no easy task. It’s pure torture, root and branch.
To think I started the lockdown going for walks under various shades of a grey sky. Now with the sunshine I find myself sweating profusely in the garden without any semblance of any shade of green in any of my fingers.
My walks could give way to a little peace, listening to birdsong, gentle meditation or even bouncing along a finger rosary as I unfurl the photo album of the Holy Family. In the garden it’s completely different. It’s like a war zone!
Prayers are more immediate and accompanied with non-liturgical utterances. They say that sudden prayers make God jump. I’ve kept Him on His toes this past week. While I’m digging He’s skipping!
Finding a place to ‘store’ the briars is another problem. I had bunged a few in a corner of the garden a few years ago, out of the way. Or more correctly out of view. I thought I would repeat the process this time around only to discover they had found new life. The resurrection of the briar!  
Not only that, but once I had made God jump again (He’s going for a record!), I discovered that my little redbreast friend, Robo the robin, had decided to nest right smack in the middle of the briar pile! Her stash of little blue eggs shone back at me. “As I remember your eyes were bluer than robins’ eggs,” I hummed to myself.
Plan B will have to come into action. The problem is I don’t know what that is yet. Perhaps Bonfire Night might come in handy!
As if the briars aren’t bad enough, there is also the sneaky grass. It creeps its greedy green garden onto the driveway, ambitiously urban. You’d think it would have enough space in the huge garden that runs right around the house. But no, in the best tradition of being a political pain, it has encroached on the driveway.
When we built this house over 20 years ago I remember hoping that the site-clearance man would just eek out the footprint of the house and driveway. The site had been untouched for years and boasted the most beautiful array of heather. Leave well enough alone, I thought. I also knew that heather growing wild was maintenance free. Nature rules.
When I returned to the site it was all cleared, one acre of a heatherless field. That’s when my gardening troubles began. We then lawned all of it. Big mistake! Now I’m like a small farmer every time I set out to cut it.
At least it’s given me more of an appreciation for Séamus Heaney’s poem ‘Digging’, where he extols the virtues of his forebears with the spade. He never mentioned briars! He took refuge in the pen. Wise man he!
I bet the Outlook priest would get mileage out of “Sin is like a briar….”