I’ve always thought it would be thrilling to find buried treasure. The odds of unearthing a concealed cache, however, are markedly slim. That’s why I’ve never been inspired to do any serious digging. Confucius was right – “Man who seeks buried treasure needs good shovel.”
Shoveling has never been my strong suit, a limitation I’ve accepted with remarkable ease. Thankfully, some treasures don’t require moving dirt. We only need to take a close look around.
In early March, Jane and I began clearing some underbrush and vines in our favorite woods. A small spring-fed stream runs continuously. Two other branches merge into it but go dry during the summer. Winter and early spring are ideal for leisurely strolls by the gently flowing brooks.
We love to walk along the bank and see how trickling water gradually reshapes fragments of fallen trees. Nature’s slow chisel can transform common wood into works of art when man doesn’t interfere. No one carves as meticulously as God.
Nandinas, palmettos, and assorted vines are what we’ve been trying to get under control. There’s no telling how the first nandina took root in those woods. Perhaps it was an offspring from a nearby yard since nandinas were once a favored plant. Their bright red berries add a nice touch to flower beds. When little nandinas go play in the forest, however, they tend to run wild.
Years ago, we noticed an increasing number of them growing along the streams. We talked about the need to get rid of them, but our efforts were modest and sporadic. They took advantage of being ignored and now cover acres of land. Some are taller than me and rather intimidating.
We’ve been using hedge clippers, hoping to prevent another crop of berries from drifting downstream. Our plan is to keep cutting, then spray a heavy dose of Nomo Nandina as soon as it’s invented. The challenge is trying to save the wild trillium and rain lilies that keep the culprits company. It’s problematic when good plants and bad plants share a bed. Bad plants won’t leave unless they get a better offer. It’s best not to ever let them in.
Palmettos are also an invasive species. When there were only a few of them scattered along the streams, their sharp fronds added a Floridian flavor to the forest. But now they are steadily expanding their prickly domain and intent on sticking around.
The vines we’re cutting have been somewhat of a surprise. There’s kudzu around the edges of the woods and occasional runners from poison ivy or oak. The most prolific, however, are the bullises. In my childhood they were already big enough for Tarzan to swing across the stream. Their twisted trunks are now massive and admittedly have a certain charm.
Until this spring, I had not realized what type vines they are. Or maybe what I once knew had been forgotten. Some have reached fifty feet or more in their upward journey on century old trees. Most of the shoots and green leaves are so high they are out of sight. Their tangled canopies are thick enough to block much of the sunlight. I guess we had grown accustomed to walking in the shadows.
I’ve cut dozens of bullis vines by hand this spring. Others were so big I used a chainsaw. My plan is to give them a second chance. A severe pruning will hopefully result in fruit low enough to pick if we get there before the deer and bears. If we overlap, the bears can go first. Or my wife if she wants to.
As we were working along the stream one April day, I saw an outline of a large wheel in a pool of slow-moving water. Even submerged in silt and barely visible, Jane knew it would be ideal for an outdoor table. I understood my role when she said, “Please don’t hurt your back.”
So, I pretended snakes were not yet in season and waded into knee-deep water. The wheel is solid iron, three feet across, has six spokes, and weighs more than I do. It’s value in dollars is not much but measured in sentiment it’s immense. Moments of joy don’t wear price tags.
Things of great worth are sometimes found by digging. Others are lying in shallow streams or walking beside us yet not always seen. We don’t have to go far to find life’s finest treasures. We only need to take a close look around. No one carves as meticulously as God.