For the first week I was unable to bring myself round to opening the shutters. I dreaded to see in broad daylight the sight I had caught a glimpse of on the night of my return from Africa. Those three weeks of absence had meant a tragic turning point for my garden. My family had cowardly taken advantage of my absence to hire a gardener, or should I say a butcher, and gratuitously destroy decades of slow growth for no apparent reason.
I cannot imagine that they couldn't anticipate how upset I would be, as I had always opposed any plan to trim the trees. Maybe a bit intransigently, but I could have taken part in an amiable discussion and eventually be talked into accepting a compromise solution. On the contrary: I was put in front of a fait accompli.
My mother must have realised that the transformation would not meet my favour because on the way from the airport she candidly announced big changes in the garden and invited me to get ready for them. But as soon as I glimpsed the dark silhouette of the maimed Deodara cedar against the lurid night sky, I felt my heart shrink and I shut myself into a silence of incommunication that I have been unable to break.
The question I ask myself is this. I had willingly taken upon myself the burden of looking after the garden, always mowing the lawn and doing other jobs which I earnestly enjoyed, and never asked anyone for a penny because I was happy and proud to see a neat garden, and now they had done this behind my back? How could I not be outraged?
The beautiful trees in my garden are massacred by a reckless gardener during my absence.
After my first workday, I saw that the birch trees in the front garden had been chopped into something that looked like a hairless poodle, but I didn't detain my gaze on the details and I refused to inspect any further. After one week I dared to open the shutters and took a quick look from my second floor window. The cedar, which had grown into a majestic tree, was now reduced to a caricature of its former self. True, it was trespassing into the neighbours' property, but they assured us that it was no nuisance to them, and they liked the great tree. But the losses didn't stop here. The laurel hedge was cut down to half its height all along the fence and each plant was left with only a trunk and a few dark branches with no leaves. That would grow quickly and more vigorously, I consoled myself, but what about two other birch trees that had been felled downright? Likewise the ailing silver pinetree. What was the need for all this, and why not ask me? That was over the top.
Nearly two weeks have elapsed, and I still have been unwilling to assess the losses. Today I have seen the heap of trunk chops piled alongside the house, another sight that opened the wound in my flesh. I am still shut in a resentful silence that will take long to heal, because those trees had also taken their time to grow, 30 years.
Today I made another discovery that has hardly upset me. I had planted seeds I had taken home from China last summer and placed the vase in the kitchen. The maid came yesterday and thought the vase was rubbish, emptied the content God knows where and I found the container with remnants of moist earth in the basement. Chances are 2014 won't be my gardening year...