Battle Royale

Battle Royale

Battle Royale

There’s a battle inside each of us. Every day. Each season of our lives, a battle. Sometimes, the battle is easy to understand. Easy to plan. Easy to flank the opponent and cruise to victory. Some battles are against flesh and blood. Others are not. Others are bigger than that. Sometimes, you battle yourself. Battle who you are and who you wish to be. You battle the past. You battle the future. You battle today, Thursday. When the time comes, we all must battle for our very lives. These are our battles, this is our war, these are our scars.

Whatever you’re battling today, I assure you that it isn’t that bad. Take me, for instance. I’m battling something now that I never thought I’d have to battle. I’m battling and I’m battling and yet, each day, I feel as though I’m making no progress. The enemy is here, there, everywhere. There is little I can do, but I try. No one ever said this battle would be easy, but then again, no one really understands what it is that I’m battling. Your battles for today are meaningful, I’m sure of it. But me? My battle is bigger. Or at least taller. My opponent more menacing. More tenacious. More noxious. Throughout my life I have battled, against competitors, against strangers, against myself. Today, I battle no one. I battle a thing. It’s Giant Ragweed season at my property, and the battle rages.

Earlier this year, I bought a new tractor. A mighty, amazing, glistening new tractor. I have another tractor, mind you, a similar make and model, but that tractor is at my cabin 170 miles from here, and after two encounters with blown tires on the route between here and there I decided that no man should have to tolerate such roadside humiliation. So I bought a new tractor, better than the last, so that my old tractor could stay at my new cabin, and my new tractor could stay at my Walworth home. The plan was perfect, but little did I know I would need that tractor for a far greater purpose.

That new tractor has a rotary mower on the back. I bought it with that attachment so I could mow my wildflower gardens in the spring, and maybe again in late fall, I wasn’t entirely sure. On one hand, the birds like the flowers in the winter, I know this because I see them perched there on the coldest of January days. But on the other hand, I know that the seeds in those flowers are stripped bare by mid November, so there’s really nothing in those flowers for the birds, and I already have plenty of trees and bushes upon which they can easily perch. Even so, the mower was added and I thought it was just a nice luxury.

But that was before the tractor was enlisted, like the boats at Dunkirk, but my lawn is marginally more dangerous. I have spent years sewing seeds throughout the expanse of my ten acre property. Each year, Outside Pride delivers more wildflower seeds for my sewing pleasure. I scatter and rake, scatter and water. I watch. The seeds sprout and the flowers grow. In late spring, the Lupines reign. So. Many. Lupines. Then, the coneflowers take over. Purple, though my wife wishes some were white. Then, the black eyed susans spread and reach. The picture above is from last week, with the BES engaged in a shameless, overwhelming display. Typically, that would be the end of it. Some stragglers would bloom through the middle of October and then the garden would be done for the year. The rabbits and foxes would slink and hop through the remnants of my magnificent prairie, and all would be well. But not this year.

This year the Giant Ragweed has arrived, with reinforcements. The tall army of stalky weeds, each one bigger than the last. Ten feet tall here, twelve feet tall there. Others, at least 40 feet tall, perhaps. My tractor, quietly resting on the margins of my lawn, now no longer a luxury. Now a weapon of war. The rotary mower, best suited for trimming the grass in my flower prairie fields, turned into a brutal killing machine. Random passes through the ragweed lines, first a zig zag to understand how strong this enemy may be, then a systematic approach to their total and complete destruction. At least that’s the plan, but I’m wavering in my commitment. The weeds are everywhere. Tall and bold. Where there were none yesterday, there are more today. Where I once felt I was regaining ground, they haven’t been killed as much as they’ve maneuvered around my swinging, whirling blades. The hidden logs and rocks eliciting dangerous explosions from my towable mower, like so many IEDs along the path to war. The great blankets of yellow pollen coating my tractor, my hair, my eyes. Later, I’ll try to wash off the stains of this war, but sometimes, no matter how hard I scrub I can’t rid myself of the memory of these battles.

I tell you this today so you’ll have some perspective. I understand your life may be hard. I understand your battles may seem unsurmountable. But maybe take a moment and think about me, and count your blessings that at the end of this day you get to go home to your family and I just get to go back to war.

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