Running into a Brick Wall

August 30, 2018


Question: If you owned a brick wall, would you rather it look like this?


Or this?


If you picked the first image, we need to talk.

Here’s what happened.  Thirtyish years ago, having recently moved to our house, I decided to remove the heinous firethorn shrub espaliered to the front wall of the garage.  With the Thorny One gone, the wall was blank.  Back in that day, I had a problem with blankness.  I conceived a great idea —  to plant fig ivy.  Which promptly surged up the wall, covering it with luxurious green. The ivy was delightful in every aspect for, oh, a few years.  But then the trouble began.  Lovely it may be, but fig ivy is invasive.  Once it fills a wall it demands constant trimming around the edges, lest it ruin the surrounding paint. Over the years it burgeons in depth and trunk size, eventually becoming less of a demure flat screen and more of a bulging ponderous heaviness, a haven for wasps and annoying house sparrows.


This winter we had a serious cold snap. The normally all-weather ivy turned into a brown, crispy mat.  I trimmed out the dead but what remained did not look promising. In fact, it looked hideous. So one day I went out and pulled the whole thing down, hacked it off at the ground.  Which left…the roots. I had to pay for several hour$$$ of root-removal. We’re talking just short of jackhammers.


Blankness as relief — my how times change. But now the easy to ignore brown rootlets still clinging like superglue have turned into a thick tracery of ghostly white, as shown above.  I am tired of looking at ghostly white, which I take to be the last hurrah of the ivy, as in, you think you got rid of me, eh?


Wire brush doesn’t work.  Pressure washing doesn’t work. This morning I went to the wall with a cake-icing spatula, and lo, one clean brick, in nothing flat!  This is much more fun than other things I should be doing! I decided to measure the task ahead of me.  Thirty rows of 15 bricks. 450 bricks.  The morning was cool and the process strangely meditative — within one hour I had gouged and scraped clean 22 bricks at the west end of the wall.  Plus 2 bonus bricks at the east end, which I will thank myself for when I get down there.


Whilst gouging and scraping, I had an idea:  People could sign up to remove the remaining rootlets.  I could charge a modest amount per brick. The proceeds could go to, oh, some worthy cause or other.  Haven’t worked that out yet.


Author: Phoebe Dishman

Phoebe H. Dishman was born and raised in Beaumont, Texas. She is a wife, mother, and grandmother. An essayist and poet, she teaches adult Sunday school, compiles a monthly prayer calendar, edits the Big Thicket Association quarterly bulletin, and keeps a keen eye and ear open for birds.

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