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Essay: Raking out the ivy

Behind our old house, we have several tall Norway spruce trees which provide pleasant shade. They also keep grass from growing but a big patch of English ivy has thrived. Until last summer when I noticed a few brown spots. This year, half the patch was brown and I was alarmed.

My neighbors counseled me to ask the MSU Extension Office and I did. The diagnosis was easy: Fungus. The treatment was hard. “Clean up and destroy diseased debris,” it said. “It will take forever,” I said and so far, I’ve been right.

Every day I set aside a few hours to rake out the ivy, rake out thirty years of pine cones, needles, and oak leaves from the tree next door. The ivy does not like this, its tendrils and roots resisting me at every step. At regular intervals, I pause and put on gloves to cut out dead vines and pick up cones—hundreds of them, probably thousands.

And while I’m wrestling with the ivy, I’m thinking about my own life—how much debris needs to be raked out and how I resist the pruning. Years of mistakes, betrayals, grudges, regrets. Good intentions left to rot like buried pine cone seeds.

“It will take forever,” I think and lean the rake against a spruce tree.

Then I put on my gloves.

Karen Anderson contributes "Essays by Karen Anderson" to Interlochen Public Radio.