The portion of the road below our house has been steadily narrowing over the past month as the roadside bamboo, saplings and weeds overgrow. The gleaming polish of the autos that travel up and down here are under increasing threat from those reaching woody arms - many with thorns - all owing to local community politics.
In the past, every year at about this time, as I’ve chronicled herein, the village below and we up here get together in a big, well-organized roadside weedwhacking work party, in which dozens of husbands and wives et al. clear both sides of the entire road up the mountain in a morning. Always an impressive event. This year, though, the whacking didn’t go this far up; it stopped down around the school at the bottom of our road, because our water co-op drilled a well and was no longer getting water from the village, severing a strong obligatory tie between us.
Henceforth, due to local village mountain-water politics we are on our own, weedwhackingwise. I waited and watched and asked and listened, but it appeared that no one in our upper community was going to do anything about it (or organize to do so, which situation is likely to change at the next couple of community meetings, since all these folks drive nice shiny cars).
Along the southern roadside the weeds had by this point narrowed the road nearly by half. Immediate emergency squad action was the only viable solution. So it was that I summoned my work crew, the Trio of Brio (motto “Sudorem delectatio est,” “Sweat is Fun”), to help me do something about it. We got out the best new big green wheelbarrow with banana-yellow handles in the world, rakes large and small, clippers, shovels, buckets, hand scythes, a big scoop basket, I got out the new high-powered weedwhacker, put on the bamboo-cutting blade and we assembled at the target area not too long after dawn, figuring to finish half the work today.
An interesting thing happens when you give brief, unadorned instructions to kids regarding tasks, like “separate the few hard woody stems and throw those back onto the cut overgrowth, wheelbarrow the rest up the mountain road to the compost strip behind the garden, then clean up the leftovers on the road.” One of the twins (Miasa, I think) took that latter instruction to near nanolevel and crafted a fine tool out of some whacked bamboo, got down on her knees and with her face close to the road used the tool to scrape particles of leaf dust into little piles, which she shoved into the dustpan pile by pile using another spontaneously crafted tool, and thence into the wheelbarrow. Interesting little devices and procedure for finely detailed cleanup, but soon her sweating, hauling sisters, wrestling with thorny reality, got on her case and once again the effort went into full forward mode.
At one point, while attempting to toss a big thorny bale of hard-stemmed whackstuff back onto the overgrowth, I couldn’t see the also-overgrown culvert, so stepped in it with my left foot just as I tossed the unwieldy armful and instantly hit the road, so to speak, toppling backward downhill onto the road, my old aikido lessons (from 40 years ago!) reflexively kicking in as I struck not flat on my back, but curled and ready to roll, my feet flying up into the air as my body rocked onto its shoulders, easily dissipating the force as per the old “aikido roll” (plus even older football knowledge) as the trio watched from uproad, slackjawed. They had never seen an adult accidentally freefall and roll till his feet were up in the air before. After returning to earth I got up with only a few scratches on one forearm and shoulder from re-entry, some woody weeds getting a bit of their own back. We continued on.
Neighborly autofolks who throughout the day drove by along the steadily widening road in their unscratched shiny cars, seeing this act of communal kindness by a foreigner and three young girls sweating in the hot sun cutting, raking and hauling, all rolled down their windows to smile Good Morning... Good afternoon... The girls smiled back, proud of what they were accomplishing. Our system and my hardy crew worked so well that we finished the job in a day.
A whole new road.