Cincinnati, Ohio

Easter Sunday, April 4, 2021

Dear Marianne,

Thanks for your last letter and your continued interest in my life. I apologize that it has again taken me over a month to reply. Fact is, I have no self-discipline. I have no self-discipline and I was mired in a self-isolated hell of trying to launch, sell, produce, and present two simultaneous, five-part, virtual horticultural lecture series without any of the skill sets. On top of that, someone at work is being mean to me!

Michele dressed for Easter this morning!

Before I forget, I want to lock onto and dwell on something from your letter. It was at the very end in the postscript, almost as if it were there as a test to see if I actually read all of your letter. It was the part where you said that one of my fans emailed you last week and called me a “treasure.” Is that true? Please don’t tease me with something like that if it isn’t true. Because I’m vulnerable. And I’m the kind of guy who could run with this. And I could launch an ego trip that burns through the atmosphere like a comet. And if you allow all that to happen only to go all Lucy on me and pull away the football, it could prove quite embarrassing for me. And it will hurt my feelings, which I know can still happen, because someone at work is being mean to me. Which I already mentioned. 

A trap?

I’m glad you didn’t write to me on Valentine’s Day like you said you almost did. Indeed, as you implied, I probably would have not handled that responsibly and would have run amok with inappropriate remarks that your ex-marine husband simply would not be able to ignore. But, I do think it’s appropriate that I’m writing to you on Easter. A) because I’m resurrecting this correspondence after something like a 40-day lapse; and, B) because it truly feels like we’re now in Spring. And a beautiful one! And like we’re nearing the end of the pandemic. 

Although my longtime Pasque Flower did not return this year, an alpine species in the crevice garden stepped up and is keeping the Easter tradition alive.

Even March wasn’t too bad this year. Usually March around here is pretty dire. It is when the novelty of the outside air being so cold you can freeze water in it has long lost its charm and when the utter lack of any color outside becomes unbearable. Invariably, it’s the time of year when anything in the garden that might have once promised “winter interest” can only still be identified by means of dental records. But this year was not so bad. Warmer than usual. Less gray. And dry. This meant we were able to enjoy those early bloomers—dafs, crocus, scilla, hellebores, etc., and not once slip in the mud, our feet flying out from under us, free falling backwards for a mile, the jarring impact of the tailbone and elbows upon the ground, head snapping back, and then hollering cuss words that reverberate off all the neighboring houses which causes embarrassment and remorse. An entire March without a concussion. Hey, one for the books!

But I haven’t been free of aches and pains, because I’m deeply mired in a ditch digging project. Like a mile of ditches. Or 140 feet. Whichever is greater. Here is an overview of the project:

First, the Problem

  • Rain from the front of the house and the front gutters flows onto the driveway.
  • The driveway drain is clogged, so all that water runs to the pool deck at the side of the house.
  • Somehow, all water on the pool deck winds up in the basement.
  • All basement water is pumped onto the driveway causing a fun but expensive water-go-round.

The culprit. The first domino.

And Then a Second Problem

  • Back gutters are clogged. A lot of that water also winds up on the pool deck. (See 1st Problem).
  • Even if these gutters are fixed, they drain into pipes for which I can find no place where they daylight.

Third Problem

  • The pool is a 1960s vintage gunnite pool with three return lines, of which only one works.

The pool deck and one wall of the garage. The trench is barely started on this section. The pool is to the right. The serviceberry in the upper center is toast. Still hoping I can save the Juddii viburnum top right.

Looking a lot like the Keystone Pipeline project around here.

Attempted Fixes and Fixes Currently in Progress

  • I tried to unclog the driveway drain. It runs around the backside of the garage, between the garage and an 80’ sugar maple. It daylighted nowhere until I dug down and found the old pipe three feet below grade and chopped through it. To nobody’s surprise, it was filled with dirt and roots. It does, however, actually drain a little, enough to drain the driveway of what water is left after the rest has gone to the pool deck.
  • So I decided to install a drain in the pool deck. This required a ditch that runs from the pool deck along the other side of the garage, around the back (where it will combine with the driveway drain once I chop through a million maple tree roots and replace the old pipe), and then along about 80’ of property line. A long ass way. But! This allows me to address these other problems.
    • It gave me time to remove the maple (which had other issues).
    • It will stop the expensive and wasteful water-go-round issue that is dinging me big time on getting LEED certification. (Just kidding on the LEED thing.)
    • The ditches I need to put a drain in the pool deck are the same ones I will need to re-plumb the pool.

My personal Big Dig. Blown budgets and quality control issues abound. The Gingko on the left has been generous with roots for me to cut. Moving the pool filter a short distance became a project in and of itself and involved removing a lot of wet sand.

So, when I said “ditch digging project” before, I hope you now see that it’s more like a genius level ditch digging project involving inventions and the sort of ultra smart wizardry I’m not typically known for.  I am not a left-brained person. Indeed, I am a very right-brained woman trapped in a right-brained man’s body. In fact, I am a rich right-brained woman trapped in a poor right-brained man’s body. Just picture Reese Witherspoon’s character in Legally Blonde suffering away inside my gross and rundown human contraption of life. So, for me, this is some seriously Romanesque engineering. Mulholland would have been proud! Hopefully, none of my crap fails like some of his and  gets somebody killed. And all I want, all I need, Dear Lord, is for driveway and pool deck to drain, the pool return lines to work, and the pool water to get filtered when I’m done. And for my neighbor’s car to not get swept off into the woods. Other people get things. Can I have this?   

But, Marianne, I’m telling you, the work is killing me. I’m a physical wreck! Every ache and pain you’d expect from digging and chopping through roots and rocks while on your knees in a ditch while smashed between a garage wall and a Mahonia or a serviceberry are proving to be real over achievers in every one of my muscles and joints. They are showing every indication of intending to stay for the long haul. I’m way too old for this, but I’m also, turns out, way to poor to pay any MIT grad capable of understanding both my instructions and doing the physical labor. Seems the current crop of young MIT grads all have hyper inflated ideas about their worth and what they’re willing to to be paid for digging ditches by hand through a forest or roots while routing pipes around this patch of raspberries, that patch of allium, and also an errant Concord grape. None of them have accepted any of my very reasonable offers, and this, if you ask me, is just another of about fifty reasons why this country is going to Hell in a hand basket.

A range of hellebore blooms taken from mostly seedling plants.

But, anyway, let’s not dwell on things going to Hell too much. That’s not what one should do on Easter Sunday. In fact, the prettiest Easter Sunday I can ever remember. Instead, one should try to find eggs, eat peeps, eat ham, look at flowers, feel the sun, breath fresh air, think existentially, become renewed, rise up, and start referring to the Winter in the past tense. I hope you’re doing all of that, and maybe a little more! 



P.S. None of your friends have ever emailed me about you, but if they ever do, I’ll let you know!