My Husband’s Mistress: Fern
Several years ago, my husband starting leaving the house to go work on the “road” – the name we gave our driveway that meanders through a dense forest in the Adirondacks. Thinking it strange that he spent so much time on the road, I peeked out a window one morning and encountered him on his hands and knees gently pushing aside ferns to pull out prickly raspberry vines and weeds that were vying for ground space. When I asked him what he was doing, he told me he was clearing out the brush and weeds to give his ferns space to grow. My husband loves ferns: those fragile looking green-leaved surface cover plants that can spread as fast as kudzu if given the chance.
Flash forward 15 years and our driveway is encased in ferns in the summertime. Halfway down the road is “the look out” – a stone enclosed sitting area with a bench that overlooks “fern valley” – the name our daughter gave to the huge field of ferns below – and the Adirondack mountain range in the distance. Everyone that comes to visit us can’t help but feel enveloped by ferns as they drive along the road or look out the windows of the guest room. Life here is a genuine fernfest.
My husband never demonstrated a green thumb for any plant until he discovered ferns and his passion is unprecedented. Every Spring, he spends a week making sure the ferns have enough open ground space to allow the spores to spread and reproduce. He also burns small areas of land to clear the brush and allow the ferns to spread and take over land previously covered by weeds and grasses since ferns grow well in moist shady woodland areas that have not been overtaken by other plant growth. His devotion and tenacity reminds me of Miss Rumphius – the award-winning children’s book by Barbara Cooney about a woman who tried to make the world a more beautiful place by planting lupine in the wild. His choice for spreading the beauty just happens to be ferns.
When we drive out the driveway, my husband can’t help but stop every few yards and point out an area that needs attention. I tell my husband that he must have been a pteriodologist (a person who studies ferns) in another life and he tells me I should be happy that the only other woman in his life is Fern..his beloved ferns.