In these days — and you know what I mean, I don’t have to say it — many of us are subject to mind-bending self-analysis. Everything we’re doing differently has mental health and happiness ramifications and we’re suckers for the psychobabble of the internet. It’s easy for those who do not suffer more urgent troubles to slip into self-indulgent navel-gazing. “Why do I (or don’t I) feel thus-and-such?” Yeah, that’s not always the wisest path. Just go dig a hole.

Sometimes we just need to rip out something that’s growing in our way. Chop something down. Whack at the bushes. Exert authority over plants.

The truly fortunate among us are those who have access to dirt. I’m talking under-the fingernails garden dirt. One is very lucky if one has a small piece of property to mess with, a spot to try growing a few jalapenos or some special tree. There is all kind of wild-ass psychology associated with yard work, be it a polite little flower patch or some hard-core swinging of the machete. A scythe is good to have. The neighbors might offer unsolicited remarks about the Grim Reaper. Get used to that.

Buy a chain saw, if there are any left. There is a lot to be said for exerting control over something these days, even if it’s a mess of recalcitrant weeds or a menacing tangle of pricker-bushes or a dead spruce tree fallen over in the wind. This is definitely a power game.

We are beating back entropy, inertia, and ennui. It’s always fun to use words like entropy, inertia, and ennui.

It feels good, in a twisted way, to do battle with a worthy adversary. I’m talking mayhem and destruction, bloody knuckles, and the weapons of the Dark Ages. Heavy iron is needed to take on scourges like those mean, spiteful non-bearing blackberries that are essentially barbed wire, if barbed wire grew six inches a day, reinforced by Rosa rugosa, which is beautiful when you don’t have to touch it.

At my place there are large, arrogant thistles in the lawn to the northeast of the house, pretty when in flower but damnable to step on and eager to seed in. There is also invasive valerian which is entirely my own fault. I brought one plant into this yard years ago. It likes our place way too well. They say valerian is a mild sedative so probably we should be putting it in the water supply.

There is the forsythia which I watched my neighbor plant, two or three decades back, as little sprigs on the edge of the lawn. Now, while glorious in color after a bleak winter, the towering forsythia bushes do that magic thing where each bending branch that touches the ground roots down permanently to create an impenetrable jungle. If Eric and Emily were still little, they’d enjoy making a fort under there. With no small kids in residence, I’m hacking at it with tools.

I’ve heard a few people make self-deprecating, nervous references to “covid nesting,” and maybe that’s what I am doing, working on improvements to my own little square of dirt. The nesting thing is real, though. Just try and buy a wheelbarrow these days, or potatoes to plant.

It might be a mistake to make my lawn any larger. I came to the realization that the problem with mowing, all along, was not any objection I had to walking behind the mower. The problem was not having the time to do it often enough, resulting in grass that was invariably too tall, and a task often maddeningly difficult. The problem was a long-term feeling of being behind the curve in terms of my yard and garden — inadequate, late, and under-equipped. The problem was that the “to do” list was intimidating and, basically, impossible. This year I’m reminding myself, “Embrace the hobby.”

It isn’t that bad; we don’t only grow tangles and thorns. I have a little American chestnut, given to me by a previous editor, which is of course planted not far from the village smithy. It’ll be quite some time before it’s a “spreading” chestnut tree but it’s a start. I have lily-of-the-valley from our 1989 wedding, flowering under the lilacs right now. I have the three little oak trees, finally tall enough to welcome songbirds, which I bought as acorns from a little boy named Donovan. We have the clump of peonies which Paul moved out of harm’s way with the old International tractor before we added on to the kitchen years ago. We have forget-me-nots now. We are terribly sentimental.

That old tractor hasn’t run in a while and is being consumed by the blackberry briars. I may need to get out there and rescue it with large blades and medieval weapons. That could be satisfying.