Uppermost House: Quick, I need a spirea

PeterLewisTreehouseCMYKBy S. Peter Lewis

BN Columnist

My wife Karen and I drove to Delawhere two weeks ago to attend a wedding. And no, that’s not a typo: I also heard it called Delawhy.

Like all of you, I didn’t think Delaware was a real place. Ask anyone “What’s south of New Jersey and east of Maryland?” and you usually hear, “The Atlantic Ocean.” Which is correct, of course (just look on a map; it’s that big blue thing).

And none of us have actually met anyone from Delaware or know anyone who has ever visited the place. I hear Joe Biden claims to be from Delaware, but every time he shows up on TV he’s in our nation’s capitol. So I say hearsay.

Anyway, the myth is shattered: Delaware is real. We drove the whole length of it and can verify that it is very flat and the main north-south road is very straight and there are strip malls all over the place. The average citizen-to-Home-Depot-ratio seems to be about 17 to 1. The beaches, however, are beautiful (they’re just down the road from Macy’s).

We wanted to make a loop so we could stop off at George and Martha’s place on the way home, so to get to Delaware and back again the long way Mapquest sent us roundy-bouty through Hartford, New York City, Newport News, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, New York (again), and Hartford (again). When I was a kid, the term “megalopolis” was tossed around to refer to this East Coast phenomenon of one seemingly endless city from Boston to Florida. And the section on our trip could be called, Hartnew Yorknew Newsportwash DeeCeeBaltnew Yorkford, but it wouldn’t be as catchy.

In each of those nice American cities, we stopped in the middle of the road for a long time to hang out with about 15 miles-worth of our newest friends, most of whom drove nicer cars than we did. Whenever this happened, not being very road-trip savvy, we were caught off guard, and stopping at the last Starbucks quickly became both a tactical error and just about the sole topic of conversation. Don’t ever order a Venti latte on I-95.

In the end, during our 1,755-mile trip, we sat at a near-standstill or crept along about as fast as a toddler can crawl, for at least five hours. It wouldn’t have been so bad if it wasn’t for all that self-inflicted internal pressure and the ensuing squirming and the incessant comments like, “Jeepers, you’d think that somewhere in this sea of asphalt some smart urban planner would have planted a shrub.”

Home again in our beloved Maine, I spent the next few days catching up with spring out in the yard. Building raised beds and mowing the lawn and raking and planting stuff and digging holes wherever my wife pointed and said, “Dahlia.”

One quiet evening, I spent about 15 minutes going 20 feet, cutting the tall grass along the stonewall border of our front walkway with a pair of scissors. I do this because I can’t get the weed whacker in the crevices between the rocks. And I do this because it’s peaceful and contemplative and it smells good to be that close to the earth. About halfway along, as I was on my knees carefully negotiating my scissors between a chunk of granite and a towering columbine, I realized that I was traveling at about the same velocity as when we drove across the George Washington Bridge behind a blue-belching dump truck.

I also realized that I had to go to the bathroom; fortunately, there was a lushly foliated spirea a few feet away in the breakdown lane.

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