The rivers are full of crocodile nasties
and He who made kittens put snakes in the grass.
He’s a lover of life but a player of pawns —
yes, the King on His sunset lies waiting for dawn
to light up His Jungle
as play is resumed.
The monkeys seem willing to strike up the tune.
From “Bungle in the Jungle” by Jethro Tull
We had our jungle cut down today. Five years ago, the second summer we lived here, we decided to stop cutting the grass at the back of our back yard. It’s the most fertile part of the yard; the grass grows there much faster than anywhere else and we got tired of trying to keep up with it. We let the grass grow tall and soon we had a little jungle playground for Noah. That fall, he was two and a half years old and going through his Mr. Tiger phase. He’d been a tiger for Halloween and afterward he wore the costume as everyday attire. He liked to be addressed as Mr. Tiger and he growled a lot. He loved crawling through the tall grass and pretending to be a tiger. Once he’d gotten far enough into the grass I couldn’t see him at all, just the grass swaying as he moved through it.
Every summer we cleared a small patch of earth to plant tomatoes and a path that led to it. Without the paths, it would have been hard to get back there. With each passing year, the jungle got more entrenched. Weed trees shot up to heights of at least ten feet. The grass got tangled and hard to walk through. When June played back there she was always getting her feet stuck and I’d have to come rescue her. Eventually, the only one who spent much time back there was Xander, the more adventurous of our two cats. Then last summer a neighbor complained about the poison ivy that was creeping through our fence out to the sidewalk. And one day early this spring I found a tick on June’s hair after she’d been playing in the jungle. I started to come to the conclusion that Beth was right and we should have it taken out.
Today the Takoma Mowers, a group of enterprising local teenage boys (http://www.bulletinboards.com/v2.cfm?comcode=takoma&loginpswd=yes&stm=yes&bypass=yes&msgid=1419966&fm=1&nw=x) came to pull up the trees and tear down the vines growing over the fence and hack the grass down to a length short enough to mow. They will be back to mow the grass and dig up a garden plot later.
We’re planning a modest garden, but a bigger one than we usually have: tomatoes, sunflowers, lettuce and spinach. Beth suggested we plant some kind of native grass around it, something we wouldn’t have to mow and that might give the back part of the yard that slightly wild look the jungle had the first few summers.
It’s a good idea, but I still feel a little melancholy for the jungle. I don’t know if it’s my hippie streak, but I like things slightly unkempt and I just can’t stand to cut any living thing. I can bring myself to mow the rest of the lawn and weed the tomatoes but I was physically sick when we had to have an ailing tree cut down a year and a half ago. Noah was three years old and sporting curls down to his shoulders before I let Beth take him for a haircut. Even now, I always think his hair is getting cute right before she decides to have it cut. In exchange, I am in charge of June’s hair and I am intending to grow it long, at least until she states a contrary opinion.
Noah says he misses the jungle, too. Maybe on some unconscious level he remembers those long-ago romps in it, back when he was a kitten and there were no snakes in the grass.