Yard work – good, old-fashioned, back-breaking, hands-on clearing and cutting and hauling – is probably the best remedy for a bad mood I’ve found.

Our family has had a rough couple of weeks, dealing with all sorts of issues ranging from a clogged sink to a Facebook vote contest to the fate of the public school band program. The sink eventually got cleared, but that’s about the only happy outcome I can report.

Now we have an additional set of pressures to deal with, and a ticking clock to add to the discomfort: We need to “remodel” our back yard to accommodate our pets’ needs while we’re gone on the Oregon Crusaders’ drum corps tour this summer. The bad vibes resonating around us from our recent disappointments are only being amplified by the stress.

One option would be to tune out; find an escape and deal with the back yard and all the lingering worries another day. We thought about leaving the back yard alone on Sunday and going to a movie.

But the gorgeous sunshine and warm breezes convinced us that sitting inside a dark theater would be a crime on such a day. So we pulled on our work gloves and dug in.

My job was to cut the blackberry vines out of our front bank. When I say “bank,” I don’t mean a gentle slope; this is a 60-degree pitch planted with St. Johns wort. The brambles had invaded, sending runners throughout the 40-foot length of the area and overrunning the upper right corner like an army massing for an attack.

Armed with long-handled loppers, I slashed and cut, ripped and pulled, paying little heed to preserving the St. Johns wort underfoot because that plant’s dang resilient – trying to keep my footing like a mountain goat on my search and destroy mission. My frustration and anger toward recent events fueled my battle with the thorns that pierced my gloves and scratched my arms.

In the end, we conquered probably 200 pounds of vines and our bank, though battle-scarred, looks clean and healthy. My psyche still has setbacks to struggle with, past and present, but the brambles of resentment have been cleared away. And a well-groomed yard always does wonders for one’s mood.

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