Close to the keyboard on my desk is a small pile of papers. The one on top is a copy of the Centralized Small Claims Answer form. A week ago, I mailed the original to the court, with a copy to my ex-husband, Paul. It isn’t due until June 4th, but I’ve sent it in early, to get it done, to get it out of my thoughts, off my list.
Below this irritating, menacing legal document, is a well written article from the Westport Minuteman newspaper that gives information about the Westport Historical Society’s Hidden Garden Tour. My garden is one of them being shown this year and I’ve been working hard to get it ready for visitors. http://westporthistory.org/events/hidden-garden-tour-2/
The two events are at odds, yet are related, both having to do with plants and flowers. On the first, a demand for my appearance at the Superior Court hearing in Bantam, CT, I’ve written that my ex-husband doesn’t own the plants he put in the ground years ago. He also shouldn’t receive $5000 from me because I won’t allow him to dig up what he wants. The second part has to do with the grueling work I’ve been doing over the last month to make sure my garden looks as beautiful as it can, to benefit this respected community organization. It’s about the beauty of azaleas, iris, rhododendrons, and rock garden plants, not about ownership.
I separate sections from enormous groupings of hosta and Japanese painted fern. Then I attempt to cut the mat of solidly woven epimedium roots. My shoulder suffers from slamming the shovel over and over on, so I can separate a good-sized chunk of the epimedium from the rest. I move these plants to another area in the garden. I’ve cut Paul off as well, to separate myself from him.
This is the sort of work my ex-husband did in the garden, before the invasion of Federal Officers, before the legal horror and the decade-long sentence, before he attempted to reclaim the plants as his own. Gardening is not an overwhelming experience for me, merely one of enjoyable hard work and satisfaction when I finish and see that what I’ve done looks good. For him it appeared to be his escape into bliss and from the life of teaching as well as his demons.
This morning, after church, a friend asks me how things are going with my garden. She knows it’s on the Tour. I tell her what I’ve been doing, the pruning, mulching, putting in new plants. She raises her voice, impatient with my response. Momentarily confused, I can’t understand why she doesn’t realize what I said. Outraged, she’s asking about the legal threat. I’m thinking about the garden and my part in the tour. Most of the time, I’m able to forget the monetary menace and his demand to come on my property. Usually, I think about the good parts of my life and what I need to do to make the garden more pleasing.
There’s a knock at the door, just now, in the light rain. Luis, the man who mows my lawn, has come to pick up the log splitter in the back woods by the property line. It weighs at least five hundred pounds and has flat tires. Luis can’t get it out alone and will return later this afternoon with his cousin, so they can pull it out of the woods and load it onto his truck. We’ve come to an agreement on the price and he’s already given me the cash. I’ll send that to Paul, if he drops the lawsuit.
Another envelope from my ex-husband arrives in the mail. I recognize his writing among the stack of bills and ads. I wonder why he uses his new name, Egnaro Rewolf, instead of his own. Maybe it’s a way of hiding on Facebook, on photographic sites of delicate little girls, in his new neighborhood. Although I hear he’s open about his prison sentence and being a sex offender, I can imagine him verbally eviscerating the authorities for stomping on his creativity, preventing him, a real artist, from producing original works of art.
With hen scratches on small pieces of paper, he again lists books that the moving men, who picked up his property a month ago, didn’t get. Some I threw out years ago, including art books that had nude photos of children, such as Sally Mann’s respected and critically acclaimed book, The Immediate Family. It went in the dumpster, along with brochures and photos of nudist camps, and drawings of his students. Ten years ago, I was suspicious of his unhealthy fascination with youth, which contributed to his downfall, and wanted nothing related to that in my home. Another time, for a different man— all that might have been fine. For my ex-husband, it wasn’t.
The rain has stopped and Luis’ cousin has arrived to help. I wave as they leave the driveway, pulling a trailer with the log splitter secured.
One more reminder of his presence is gone. Another area cleared out. Now I can yank the weeds where the log splitter rested for so many years. There are only a few more things to accomplish before the garden will be ready for the Tour. I hope you’ll come. It’s on Sunday, June 14th.