from the Comments: Ace’s Axiom #2

Posted by Ace on May 8th, 2010 filed in from the Comments, letters from Ace

The previous From the Comments contained this assertion by me:

Let me just take a moment at this juncture to refer you to Ace’s Axiom #2, which is: If it seems obvious to you that something should be done, and yet it hasn’t already been done, there’s probably a reason why. Which is closely related to Ace’s Axiom #3: Nothing is ever simple or easy.  Anything that seems simple or easy will turn out to be ineffectual or have to be changed later on.

… resulting in the following counterpoint by Neuro:

Noted, but have you heard of Neuro’s Counteraxiom #2? That thing that you have been putting off for months or years because of being daunted by it will turn out to be fairly easy and would have made your life so much better all this time had you just done it when you should have. I’ve been stung by that one so many times with finances, health, comfort, aesthetics, etc. I’m trying to get better about it.

Well…  yeah.  On paper (and in practice), much better attitude with which to live your life.  It’s just that it doesn’t reflect my experience!  For every sink-fixing success (if you can call that a success), I get two air-conditioner failures, plus an instance of gluing things to the windshield of my car backwards.  My health is a story of things that were supposed to be simple turning out to be complex, often decades-long complex.  And my job (my current job anyway) consists of riding herd on a team of people I’ve never met who don’t quite speak my language, making sure that the “simple” things they’re supposed to do don’t go off on bizarre tangents or turn into nightmares.  Kinda colors my thinking…

I think my seminal experience in this regard had to be the grass at my house in Ivory Grove:  a 1910 three story Victorian surrounded by normal landscaping, including some very tall, very old pine trees, and having just enough property around it to make it feel, err…  not like Sealand.  The front of the property, to the west, had a tiny lawn;  the back, to the east, a very cute patio and a sort of secret garden with holly trees and grapevines.  The north, by constrast, where there was  a small strip of land between the side of the house and the fence marking the neighbor’s property, contained nothing but dirt.  Bare empty dirt.  I found that confusing.   Flushed with the short-lived enthusiasm of the new homeowner, however, I assumed that it was just something the previous owner had never gotten around to addressing, and set about analyzing how best to fix the problem.  The conclusion I came to was that since the north side of the house was in shade for almost the entire day, on account of all the tall trees, whatever grass had been there had probably ceased to get enough sunlight and died out.  So I did a little research, found a shade grass used on golf courses that needed almost no sunlight, got myself a hoe and set to.  How hard could it be, right?

The first thing I discovered, immediately, was that the soil was not what it appeared.  Only the top eighth of an inch could properly be called soil;  the rest was apparently some sort of construction backfill, containing (among other things) huge stones, chunks of glass of every color and three-inch wide hunks of concrete with hexagonal bathroom tiles attached.  It was, shall we say, not ideal for hoeing.  But I persevered.  I used a shovel to pry out all the really ridiculous stuff, and worked everything else over like a pioneer until I had a useable plot.  Then I seeded and watered and watched.  And in a relatively short period of time–  about a week–  I had brand new, green, growing grass.  It looked lovely.  One of my neighbors, who had never said anything to me before, saw it over his back fence and commented about how nice it was, and gave me the thumbs up.

Then we had our first good rainstorm.

It turned out that the grading of my property and the grading of the adjacent, much larger property, all led imperceptibly downhill, all to that northern strip.  So as soon as the rain started in any earnest, the whole thing became a freshet of running water.  Furthermore, that water contained the runoff from everything around it–  and what was around it, by and large, was pine trees.  So after the rain stopped, and the water went away, the whole expanse was covered in a quarter-inch thick layer of pine needles, sterilizing it as neatly as if I had taken a flamethrower to it and then salted the earth.  The grass died.  Quickly.  It persevered only in a little pocket over by the very corner of the property, where we had filled in the hole left by the stump of a mulberry tree we’d ground out, and there was a tiny hump that the pine needles tended to flow around.  It was…  educational.

Plus I sold the house, of course, later, when I got divorced.  So it all wound up being moot anyway.  Except in the sense that I have a fun story to tell, and I now spout axioms about the limitations of my own ability to affect my environment in positive ways.

I do wonder sometimes if it’s still bare dirt, now, at least two owners later.  But I’ve never had the opportunity to go back and check.

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