The daily grind has been more challenging than usual these days. Since everything seems impossible and futile at the moment anyway, I thought I’d tackle a Sisyphean task that has been plaguing me for months. The side entrance we always use to enter the house has drainage issues. Rain was washing soil from the garden beds into the pathway. It got so bad, we would have to take a running leap to get over the permanent mud puddle that was forming at the base of the steps.
When I was a little girl, my dad took us to visit Mount Vernon. I wouldn’t be able to tell you what happened to me two days ago to save my life, but I can clearly remember the distinct pleasure of walking on the crushed oyster shell paths at Mount Vernon decades ago. They crunched softly underfoot and gave just a little with each step. With a visceral memory of that delightful sensation, I thought oyster shells would be the perfect solution to our mud problem. Back in the spring I discovered that our local Tractor Supply store carried 50 lb bags of crushed oyster shell for chicken feed and I hauled five bags home. After shoring up the sides of the garden beds with the plentiful quartz rocks that are all over our yard, I poured all 250 pounds of oyster shells onto the muddiest part of the pathway at the base of the steps. It worked beautifully! What a relief to be able to walk rather than leap over the path to get into the house!
I’d meant to finish up the rest of the path months ago, but I’d run out of rocks, I’d run out of shells, and I’d run out of will. I had scouted out more rocks in the paddock, but the thought of digging them up and hauling them back just seemed too daunting. Finally this weekend I tackled the project. Once I got started, I couldn’t stop…even to change out of my church clothes. My husband has more than once accused me of the crime of “ballistic intention,” and I’ll admit guilt to this one. I worked like a woman possessed. I dug up huge rocks and dragged them back in multiple loads in the little red wagon we used to pull my kids in when they were little. And yes, I did it in my dress and gold ballet flats. The paddock has a beautiful down slope that made the first part of the trip a breeze. But then the upward slope would loom before me like a nightmare. Trudging up that slope with my load of stones over and over again crushed my spirit and made me feel like I would never ever experience happiness again.
But I kept trudging. It took me two days. I had to keep stopping every ten steps or so to catch my breath and so that my heart wouldn’t explode. Every now and then I’d give up, abandoning my burden to go inside and collapse in a quivering mass of flesh and ruined hopes and dreams.
For the very last load, my son pulled the wagon while I pushed from behind, and…we did it! The path is outlined:
Now all I need is another ten bags of crushed oyster shells…
…and a new back.
It was brutal. I’m physically wrecked. I had to give up every now and then to preserve the tattered scraps of sanity I have left. But I’ve outlined the path, and I’ll keep on going until the job’s done.