It’s spring and some days I have to chain myself to my desk. The broom is calling you see, and not a witches’ broom either – though witches’ brooms must have been made with the stuff I routinely slaughter. It’s stiff and green and tough as steel wire and this month, the bright ghastly yellow flowers surround the house – 150 meters away, but nonetheless, it will go to seed in a month, and then all the earth – scraped bare by the construction crew – will be colonized.
So I got out with my loppers, rubber boots, and long sleeves and start work. It is the best exercise ever. Better than downhill skiing – ok not quite. Galloping a horse across a field – that’s more fun I admit, but I no longer risk death. But most things – the gym, hiking, swimming – cutting broom trump broom. Within fifteen minutes I’m breathing hard and sweating and here’s the thing – I don’t want to stop. It’s too satisfying, it’s fun, it’s time travel back to when our ancestors cleared farmland – I used to think how miserable that must have been. Now I know they were all high as kites the whole damn time.
I’ve been clearing broom for 12 years now on and off. It is the most aggressive invasive species out here and it flourishes wherever land has been disturbed and then allowed to go fallow – the best argument ever against our metastatic conservation urge. All local shrubs and flowers are crowded out – the nootka rose, the camas lily, the chocolate orchid – gone.
Here’s the thing: I arrived in the country, hollowed out from 20 years in big big cities, frail, exhausted, often bedridden with flu or a persistent cold. Broom gave me back my health. Working outside cured me. I can hike straight up a mountain now, or run five miles (with breaks) and I never get sick for more than a day. Destroying that shrub on my 28, then after the (green) subdivision, 16.5 acres has given me another 40 years of brutal health. Now, I must go because if I do four hours of phone interviews, I can have two in my broom patch.