I’ve been pretty busy lately doing whatever it is that I do. Besides all that, I’ve personally spent the week preparing for the Olympics.
Not that Olympics. Not that thing with the five rings and the Coca-Cola logo. Any wimp can do that stuff.
You take your weight-lifting: in the normal, ho-hum, panty-waist everyday Olympics, some big bruiser in tights grunts, howls, and groans until he lifts a few hundred pounds over his head. B-I-G deal. Pardon me while I drop off to sleep. The way I see it, this doesn’t take any real skill or planning, just a good breakfast, and maybe, if you’ve got a musk-ox somewhere in your family lineage, that doesn’t hurt either.
Now MY Olympics, that’s a different story. My Olympics are held every spring and fall, but the fall event is somewhat the more spectacular.
Preparation begins when my razor-sharp perceptive abilities begin receiving vibrations of minute and subtle changes afoot in the environment.
First, the walnut leaves turn a golden yellow, and each crisp breeze brings more and more of them gently floating down from their branches. Before long, flocks of geese can be seen and heard in the sky overhead as they make their way southward. One night, I walk outside to learn that the balmy night air of summer has been replaced by a sterner, less forgiving ether.
Or, if my razor-sharp perceptive abilities have got a head-cold or something, I just turn on the weather channel and they tell me that winter is fast approaching.
That means that my houseplants have to come in before they get frosted. All the conventional wisdom will tell you that the average first frost around here is October 10. However, the conventional wisdom doesn’t live down in my valley where the cold likes to congregate… early.
This year’s Autumn Olympics were held on October 8. Typically, this was the day after the first frost. It’s an essential part of my Olympic Tradition that these pre-frost games actually take place AFTER the frost. This underscores the fact that this is all done for the purity of the sport, and not because I want my plants to look good all winter or anything so shallow and banal as that. It’s from this perspective, that I’m then able to pontificate about the unpredictability of life and on the personal ancestry and relative intelligence of the weatherman.
There are many, many challenging events comprising the Autumn Olympics, but there’s little argument that the feature event is Bringing In The Hibiscus.
I have this Chinese-red hibiscus that typically spends the summer basking in the sun of the front lawn (having arrived there as the feature event of the Spring Olympics, Taking Out The Hibiscus). This monster is ten or twelve years old and has grown to be about four feet high and nearly as wide. Its’ broad leaves and myriad branches almost completely conceal an ancient 18″ pot of Mexican origin that my sister gave me.
Recently, astronomers discovered a star half-way across our galaxy which was dubbed a Magnetar. You may have missed it since it’s not been subpoenaed or anything, but according to the scientists, its density is so great that, even though it’s weight is 500,000 times that of earth, it is only 12 miles in diameter!
I mention this so that you may have an appropriate image in your mind when you visualize what I am about to carry from my front lawn up two flights of stairs to the dormer window beside my office.
This is a solo event. About the time my son finally got big enough to (theoretically) be of much help, he also obtained a driver’s license, which means he’s never around here anymore and besides, he’s a teenager, which means he rarely does anything of any practical value anyway.
In his absence, I’ve considered finding and marrying a really brawny woman (does anyone remember Nikita Kruschev’s wife?) who could help with things like this, but… well, everything has it’s down-side.
Anyway, this year’s running was quite dramatic, and I only wish I’d had some way to record it for posterity. After I’d performed a sophisticated series of stretches and warm-up exercises; after I’d stood facing the plant and reached deep within myself for the mental discipline I would need, I then reached deep within the plant to wrap my arms around the slippery, round pot somewhere within the mass of foliage.
As I applied my first burst of energy, my mind flashed on those regular-Olympic sissies who get to place their rosin-dusted hands on a nice grippy bar before they lift it. Plunging most of my upper body into this Porta-Jungle, I began the sequence of the events that those phonies refer to as “the snatch”. This, however, isn’t a very good description of the process whereby one hefts this small planet off of the ground, tearing loose from the earth whatever roots have grown through the drainage holes and deep into the lawn. Perhaps “the struggle”, “the bungle” or “the vertebrae compression” would be better terms.
Terminology aside, reeling with a combination of relief and dismay, I find myself standing vaguely upright clutching this little forest to my chest. I lean forward slightly in the direction that I recall the house was last located. The weight of the hibiscus then propels me across the yard and toward the steps of my front porch. I ride this momentum up approximately four of the eight steps where I lurch to a momentary halt, then start to teeter slowly, agonizingly backward.
The thought of falling down the stairs and landing on the back of my skull with this enormous thing coming to rest on my chinny-chin-chin gives me the necessary adrenaline to clamber up the remaining stairs.
Between those stairs and the front porch, I am forced to pirouette around something soft and lumpy that yelps like a dog who’s just been stepped on by a large tree.
Suddenly, I find myself through the front door, and with a pathetic gasp, head on to the final, most rigorous and grueling leg of the event, in which I mount the fourteen steps to the second floor in a gasping, wheezing stumble to the top, there to plant the load directly on the plant dolly which waits somewhere beyond the top step and on the other side of all this greenery.
It seems that the hibiscus has had a very good summer. Even though I manage a beautiful bull’s-eye landing, the weight of the plant instantly crushes the dolly, breaking off one wheel and bringing the sorry combination of plant, pot, and dead dolly to rest completely askew but safely a the top of the stairs.
For a few moments I just lie there. My lungs ache as I gasp and I moan, but I know that victory is mine, and I even manage a slight smile. I hallucinate there are cheering crowds, I imagine microphones thrust in my face (only these microphones have leaves and perhaps a dose of white-fly). Voices ask me what it was like out there. Any judge in his or her right mind will give me at least a 9.3. Somewhere, the theme from Rocky begins to play.
So that’s my athletic career to date. My trophy now sits in its’ dormer, soaking up the sun’s rays, full of vim, vigor and a special blend of rotted manure and bone meal. Next week I begin training for the Spring Downhill, which makes what those cowardly Winter Olympics slalom racers do look embarrassingly tame in comparison.