by Sam Payne
Almost a decade ago, my family and I moved into a lovely little house in the middle of St.George. Before we moved in, the landlord showed us proudly around the home’s uncommonly beautiful yard. The house was set back from the road behind a screen of enormous mulberry trees. Up the great trees twined green ivy. The ivy hung, shaggy from the trunks, and spread up and around the picket fence that bordered the property; covered it, really, so that what once had been a picket fence was now more like a wall of ivy. The ivy snaked around the goldfish pond, and climbed sturdily up the outside walls of the house.
We quickly discovered that the house was already sort of a neighborhood landmark. We’d often begin to give someone directions to our home, only to find them interrupting us with, “you mean the ivy house?” We loved that house. We loved the ivy. But sometime during the first winter we were there, I thought I’d spend an afternoon trimming it. Frankly, I didn’t know anything about ivy, but I thought a good haircut couldn’t hurt. Well, I must have gotten lost in thought or something, because when I stood back to look at my handiwork, the yard looked like five days growth of beard, shaved over by a cross-eyed barber with a dull razor. Wiry ivy stems poked out here and there, ragged and brown. Holes in the ivy gaped like open wounds, and lawn ornaments long covered by the green vines lay exposed like naked baby birds. Before my afternoon’s work, our yard had been a page from better homes and gardens. Now it was the more like the wicked witch’s haunted forest from The Wizard of Oz. I remembered the pride with which our landlord had shown us around that yard, and I was horrified. I felt as if I had killed a friend of his.
I sat down on the porch, eyes glazed over, and imagined what he’d do to us when he saw what I’d done. And with trembling hands, I dialed his number on the phone. “Mr. Hopkins,” I said, “I think you’d better come over here. I think I’ve done something awful.” Well, five minutes later he was in my driveway, scanning the yard for the awful thing I’d done. “What’s the problem,” he asked, not bothering to hide the anxiety in his voice. I pointed over to the yard, barely able to raise my eyes. “I think I’ve killed the yard,” I said. “I know you worked a long time to grow that ivy. I think I’ve wrecked it for good.” Well, when I did look up, my landlord, Jim Hopkins, was laughing. He couldn’t help himself. “Call me in the Spring,” he said, “and we’ll see what you wrecked.” He pulled out of the driveway and drove away with a smile on his face.
For long winter weeks, I walked sheepishly past the ivied yard, and it seemed to lie there, gazing at me in silence and accusation. I’d try not to look directly at the yard as I walked past on the way to the mailbox. And as such, I almost missed the miracle until it couldn’t be ignored. Long about April of the next year, over the course of what seemed about two days, the ivy did just what you’d expect. When I dared look it in the face again, expecting to find the same wiry, sheared-sheep, hacked-up yardscape that I’d created a season ago , I found instead lush beds of green, shining ivy, full as a healthy head of hair. The yard was drenched in it. Big green leaves spilled joyfully over the picket fence, and ran earnestly up the trunks of the big mulberries. The whole yard seemed to gaze at me with a smile, good-naturedly whispering, “psych!”
We lived in that house for nine years, and those years included many ivy haircuts and many returns to almost uncontrollable vigor. In those days, when someone would get nervous about trimming too much here and there, someone else would invariably say, “trim away, it’s not like you could kill this stuff.” And I learned a lesson from my yard. In spite of my best efforts, life wins.
Take a moment to ponder. You’ve read the same story I have, about the man who was thought to have been killed, only to be raised up on the third day, more vigorous than ever before. And the world at Easter has always testified of that story; life bursting the shell that death would close over it. It’s a perennial reminder that even though we sometimes find ourselves immersed in what seem like endless winters of sorrow or darkness, seasons of joy lie ahead of us, coming on as surely as spring does, without fail. A reminder, even, that while everybody dies, nobody dies for very long. Even in the face of that most incontrovertible of winters, life wins.