In praise of privet

© Margaret Sloan 2012

Two weeks ago, shaky and hollow feeling, I came home from hospital to our un-airconditioned house (really, it’s just an uninsulated box sitting in the sun). Our house, besides being horrendously hot during warm summer afternoons, is not really set up for relaxing (except in the bedroom, the hottest room in the house). We’re set up for working. Or eating. Because working and eating? Those are pretty much our main activities. The living room is my studio. The extra bedroom an office. We don’t do much lounging.

But after 4 days flat on my back in hospital (No food! No ice cream!), I couldn’t work. I needed a place to rest.

We’re lucky to have a backyard. And in the backyard beginning at about 1 p.m., there is a lounge chair that just fits in a small wedge of shade cast by a privet tree.

Normally I hate privet. It’s weedy. It sprouts in every inch of the garden. Sprouts that, at 5 inches tall,  require a shovel to extricate them from the center of my favorite perennials and shrubs.

Because of a miscommunication with the mow-blow-and-go lawncare service, this privet, once a semi-tamed shrub in a mixed hedge, went without pruning for so long that it has now become a tree. For many years I’ve threatened to cut it down. And now I’m glad the chainsaw never touched it.

Because for two days after coming home from the hospital, I rested in that pool of privet shade and watched the white blossoms against the blue sky. The fresh smell of the flowers helped clear the nasty hospital and medication odors from my nose, and the sound of insects buzzing through the flowers lulled me into much needed sleep.

Yes, I know. All those lovely flowers will become blue-black seeds that will create a veritable privet lawn in the garden, and I’ll be cursing the privet soon enough. But for now, I sing, grateful and loud, in praise of the privet tree.