The Snowball Bush

Matt Briggs SeattleThe snowball bush blooms once a year. I’m never sure when it will bloom. For most of the year the bush sits in the middle of the lawn, a mass of stalks, dead leaves, and long grass in an island that I can’t mow. I would like to keep the entire lawn wild since I am not much of a lawn keeper. But it doesn’t become wild but instead feral. Blackberries briars spring up from the untended hedges. Cherry tree samplings appear near the crumbling limbs of the old tree between the house and the street. Succulent vines with sticky leaves and round leaves a lime color, a weedy green, grow up the edge of the fence. Instead, I keep the dandelions mowed. I keep the packets of weeds corralled in circles under the snowball bush, the misguided cinder brick planter someone used to hide the stumps in the middle of the yard. When we first moved into the house, there was a Michelangelo Venus standing on one of the old fir stumps. And the snowball bush was in bloom. In the first load of trash I hauled away the statue and threw her into the pit at the transfer station. A man drove a huge, house sized tractor from one edge of the pit to other crushing everything: old chest of drawers, elaborate wooden filing cabinets, bags of weeds, and Venus. When I returned home, the snowball as still in bloom seemed to lit the yard in the reflective light in the dusk. When in bloom even at a night, I can see by the reflective light of the bush. And then after a week of huge shapeless flowers they turn brown and scatter and the bush is a dark lump. I contemplate then pulling it out and turning that portion of the yard into an easy to mow slip of grass and dandelions. I haven’t done it yet because every spring when I think about pulling up the bush, I can’t remember when it will bloom and I wait until it blooms and by the time it does in late May, by the time the memory of the bloom fades, the yard is hot and yellow with the summer and pulling anything living out of the ground seems foolish.

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