January 16th, 2014 - 5:18 A.M.
First, a little background on the early morning routine.
Every morning, at exactly 5:18 A.M, the dog barks up the stairs to let us know she is ready for her day to start. It’s not really a bark as much as it is a shriek. It has been like that for the past fourteen years. A bark would be much easier to handle. The shriek physically pains the ears and forces me to jump out of bed and run down the stairs just to ensure that there isn’t a second verse. An effective move on her part.
I grab my conveniently placed hoodie (I kid you not, I place it right in the path where I jump out of bed so I can run and grab it at the same time) off of the floor and head down the stairs. Three out of ten times I trip on the bottom step; one out of twenty five times I forget to shut off the alarm and send the entire family into a panic; two out of twenty times I try to put sweatpants on my head thinking it is my trusty hoodie and ten out of ten times I look at myself in the mirror at the bottom of the stairs amazed at how old and tired I look. Boxers who just lasted ten rounds look better than I do in the morning. I don’t know if it is lack of sleep, genetics, too much caffeine consumed the prior day or a cocktail of them all, but it is a sight to behold. One day I’ll remember to capture it on film.
Once I am outside with the dog (we’ll call her Casey) she is all business, anxious to get back indoors so she can eat the same kibble she has eaten for 14 years. I would estimate that we are actually outside for eleven seconds. But in those eleven seconds, it is enough time for me to spot something in the garden I want to change. The first four seconds are a review of possible deer damage from the night before, the next four seconds are making sure Casey doesn’t eat the deer crap that has been left behind and the final three seconds are where the garden review comes into play.
After I’ve fed the dog, walked into the wall and tripped over a balloon (don’t ask), I climb back up the stairs hoping to get back in bed and get some more sleep before the day officially starts. I have the unique ability to go back to sleep within seconds even if I’ve just stepped outside in single digit temps wearing nothing but a hoodie and boxers. A skill I am quite proud of and one that worked well when the kids were newborns. I could take the night shift and easily sleep all morning. Once my wife is awake, she is up for the day. And once up, she could solve a Rubik's cube in like thirty seconds. She is that "awake". Me, I can go back to sleep at 5:30 and blissfully sleep until 10:30 A.M. A wonderful marital compromise.
One of the tricks that helps me fall back to sleep is to focus deeply on one thought and let that bring me back into REM land. And by now you’ve probably figured it out; I focus on that one garden "flaw" I absorbed just minutes earlier. It could be a simple relocation of a shrub to a better spot in the landscape or an idea for a new perennial that would fit in that empty space perfectly or it could go as far as a complete overhaul of my foundation plantings. You get the point. Within minutes I am out cold and dreaming of dancing with Viburnums.
This particular morning was like all others except the aforementioned eleven seconds turned into twenty five seconds. The footing on the front lawn was poor due to the overnight frost so the diva (I kid) needed to take her time before squatting. With the additional fourteen seconds, I debated whether or not I should prune back my red twig dogwood in the next month or so.
As I stealthily maneuvered back into bed, the questions that sent me back to la la land included:
If I prune it back hard, I will cut off all of the flowers to appear in spring but will get the best red stem color the following winter.
Said flowers are not all that great anyway so does that even factor in?
Since this was the first year that it really exploded in growth, should I put off the decision for another year?
Maybe I'll cut back a third of the branches like the experts say and try to get the best of both worlds.
Could I make better use of my time and not debate pruning options 5:23 in the morning?