SUMMER STARTED a week ago officially, but it actually started hereabouts some weeks back, the real summer. When it started to rain.
I was walking up the Romance Sidewalk this morning when I noticed a hummingbird sitting casually on one of the aloe vera spikes. He didn’t seem concerned about anything much, and why should he? There are blooms to be sucked. Plenty of them.
Hummingbirds are brave, not much put off by people nearby, and this guy was like that, but he didn’t stick around while I retrieved my camera.
Cool, wet, sometimes sunny days are the norm till October or so.
I never walked up a Romance Sidewalk or any sidewalk in Houston all those years I lived there and spotted a hummingbird sitting on a huge aloe vera.
I never wore a flannel shirt in late June or long pants except to go to work. It was very different then, and it’s better now, especially not having to work at all.
IT’S OVERCAST this mid-morning and 64 degrees on the upstairs terraza.
Abel the Yardman is coming later to cut the grass, so I decided to do some overdue plant trimming in advance. Out I went at 9 a.m., my tummy full of bagel and cream cheese.
The first victim of my clipping shears was the philodendron Xanadu, which grows here to mammoth proportions. Secondly, I attacked the aloe vera which, similarly, buffs up like mad.
I stacked the philodendron cuttings on the floor of the Garden Patio to be chopped up later and dumped into a very big bag. The aloe vera will be tossed into a ravine out back where I have Abel the Yardman throw green garbage.
What about apples? The grumpy neighbors on the side opposite the sex motel have an apple tree abutting our property wall. Little thought was given to placement when they planted it years ago. Now it’s big and leans over our wall insouciantly and dumps apples into the grass in summertime.
How nice, you may think. Actually no. When I find them, they invariably have been gnawed by unknown beasts, leaving them fit for naught good.
I pick them up and throw them away.
But enough of this. I now must water the potted plants on the downstairs veranda. They are thirsty and don’t care that I’m writing this.
MY FATHER DIED a quarter century ago when he was just three years older than I am right now.
He was a sad man, but he loved summer. He worked evenings, which gave him days free to labor in the yard where we lived in Northern Florida in a ranch house.
He loved the Atlantic beach, sand and saltwater, and he loved tending the yard. Neither interfered with his drinking, however. Heat stirs well with highballs.
I don’t drink — well, not anymore — and maybe that’s why I don’t like gardening, and I don’t live near the beach though we can get there in three hours down the autopista.
And I loathe heat, the lack of which makes my mountaintop home wonderful in summertime. But things really grow here, much better than they did in my father’s yard.
Gotta be the latitude.
Every winter I blaze through the yard like a machete-wielding madman even though I actually use a small saw and branch trimmer. The golden datura is slashed back to basics, leaving the trunk and some nubs. It’s soft wood.
It booms back in June once it feels a touch of rain.
My father had a pink-flowered mimosa of similar size in our Florida yard. It was the only thing of any height. The rest were pansies, petunias, such stuff, all planted in rows.
Here I have a Willy-Nilly Zone where things grow, hemmed in by rock and concrete, in any direction they desire.
And for things of size, there’s monster bougainvillea, the towering nopal, a gigantic fan palm.
I was pressed, as a boy, into yard-mowing duties, and I received a small sum. I forget how much. And I once cut the Hacienda lawn too, years ago, but not anymore.
That’s why the Goddess invented pesos for me to pay Abel the Deadpan Yardman.
About a decade back, after I moved to Mexico, I drove a rented car slowly by the Florida house. The mimosa was gone. Everything was bleak. The grass was spotty due to cars being parked on it, just like a rack of rednecks would do.
There were no flowers at all. Nothing.
In the 1950s, the area was the middle class moving up. Now it’s the working class barely holding on.
A FULL MOON hung over Happy Ville last night, but that’s not its lingering display through the peach branches at the top. That’s a new WiFi antenna.
Here at the Hacienda we woke in high spirits today, so we’ve temporarily — perhaps permanently — renamed our home Happy Ville or, if you prefer español, Villa Felíz.
But there was work to be done, as ever, and I’ve been doing it for days. It’s cutting back summer yard growth. If this is not done, things fly out of control.
I’ve whacked one of the two daturas back to the nub. Same for the roses, and reducing the towering nopal horizontally* is an ongoing chore. And I’ve removed a goodly number of fronds from the big, malicious maguey.
I’m dumping my culls out back in the Garden Patio. Already included are lots of aloe vera, the aforementioned maguey and assorted odds and ends. The pile will grow.
When I’m finished, I’ll hire Abel the Deadpan Yardman to wheelbarrow it down to the ravine out back.
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It was such a lovely morning, I decided to take the longer route for my morning exercise walk. This took me to the far end of the barrio where, oddly, a snazzy, four-lane boulevard of cobblestone is being constructed.
One can enter our hardscrabble barrio principally from two directions. This is the direction we rarely use, mostly because it was a potholed nightmare.
This renovation is welcomed, but I wonder why it’s being done so elegantly. I mean, really, four lanes? This stretch is only about a quarter of a mile and funnels into another narrow, two-lane, cobblestone street.
It would have been sweet if they’d made this short boulevard just two lanes instead of four and used the leftover money to build a bicycle lane from here to downtown. We’ve written the mayor about that. He’s ignored us.
No matter. It’s another fine day at Happy Ville.
* * * *
* Trimming it vertically is out of the question now.