It’s a bumper crop for driveway food at the Murray house. Running along the southwest edge of the driveway – just this side of the abandoned basketball hoop and not to be confused with the (presumably) non-edible weeds dominating the rest of the driveway – is a burgeoning row of wild strawberries.
They’ve been there for the past few years, producing the odd, punky fruit. But this year there’s quite a bounty. So much so that I can actually hunker down and graze – which must look from street view as if I’ve developed a sudden appetite for gravel. It wouldn’t be the weirdest thing the neighbours have seen.
The strawberries themselves are tiny and sweet (coincidentally how I was described in my high school yearbook). And if my theory is right, they’re resilient little buggers.
Apparently if you went back more than 25 years – before we owned the place – you might have seen strawberries all over this property. You might also have seen the home’s owner, a sweet lady by all reports, out cutting her grass with scissors. Adorable but inefficient (coincidentally how I was described in my last performance review).
By the time we moved here in ’95, there wasn’t a strawberry in sight. Aggressive grass and (let’s be honest) weeds took over, and, with a lawnmower replacing the scissors, the berries probably didn’t stand a chance.
There were also kids. Not just ours but a street full, and they all seemed to congregate here. With games of Ghost, Knock-Out and All-Purpose Tattling, any fruit plants were good and trampled. I believe during this era we actually managed to kill mint.
But the basketball hoop has laid on its side for some time, and the running around is limited mainly to cats these days, as the kids have all grown up or moved away. Add to this our general lawn-care nonchalance (lawn-chalance), and suddenly the strawberries were back in business.
Actually, there’s another reason: my wife won’t kill anything. If there are flowering weeds on our lawn (and by “if,” I mean “when”), Deb will mow around them, creating impromptu garden patches (and by “patches,” I mean “patches”). Thus the border of weeds and (it turns out) strawberries along the driveway.
She’s the same with the trees. In 2012, an early snowstorm took out one of our young maples. One of the three main branches snapped beyond salvage, but the other two refused to die, mostly because Deb wouldn’t let them. Even when our neighbour, an arborist, declared the tree good and dead, Deb insisted on giving it a chance.
Today, it is a twisted, malformed presence on our front lawn (coincidentally how I’m often described by my neighbours). It’s grown taller and taller but the trunk hasn’t widened much to support it, making me worry it’s going to snap some day, probably on our neighbour’s car, which is bad karma for an arborist.
Last winter we lost another tree, an apple, likewise to early snow. It broke off at the base of the trunk, leaving only a small section intact. Naturally, we propped it, staked it and tied it to see if it would heal over the winter. But come spring it was clear: it was dead. Even Deb had to admit it, so I cut it down.
And yet, from the base of the trunk, a new shoot is growing, green and healthy and ready to carry on where its parent tree left off.
The other day, I sat on my porch and looked up our ordinary, residential street, and all I could see were leaves and branches, nothing but green – as long as I didn’t look down at the yellow dog-pee stains on our lawn, nothing but green! On one little street, all this teeming plant life, just patiently growing, biding the dormant seasons, then growing some more.
Or the strawberries by the driveway that have been hanging around for more than 25 years waiting to populate the property again. How resilient they are!
Maybe it was the long winter or the crummy spring or the fact that we’re at peak green right now, before the yellowing effect of the summer’s heat and drought, but I feel hopeful. I feel that, despite all the damage and negligence we’ve thrown at this planet, patient nature will find a way to survive. And when it does, I hope I’m there to eat the driveway berries.