Sunday, April 16, 2006


Taxes are mailed. The dogs are stretched out on the living room floor. My wife’s side of the family has made a pilgrimage of sorts to celebrate Easter with us. Michelle, her sister and both of our nephews are gathered before the television daring each other with Harry Potter trivia as my mother-in-law relaxes and watches on the sofa. Our niece, who is a surprisingly astute 5-year-old, is upstairs—hopefully playing video games. And I’ve retreated to the sanctity of my office to be surrounded by the oddly melodic tones of a Stephen Malkmus recording.

A ceiling fan spins shadows across the patched cracks above my head. The shrunken suit of armor atop my file cabinet stands watch. He’s draped, as if for Mardi Gras, with gold-painted beads. And now I’m exhausted. My knee aches and blisters on my fingers are stinging.

Last night a storm crossed the Ohio valley area, with thunder rumbling, lightening dividing the sky with pure white strikes in the distant hills followed by violet flashes that filled the whole of my vision for a moment before the black of rain-soaked streets returned.

Today, since the ground was moist and the weather sun-drenched, Michelle, her sister, and her mother spent the morning and afternoon in the backyard pulling out weeds, pruning back overgrowth, and shaping the small shade trees that line our fence. I drove for coffee with my wife, played with the puppies, finished local taxes, grilled hotdogs, mettwurst, and hamburger for the family, and yanked Rose of Sharon sprouts from the damp soil. I cut occasional dead branches from fence-entwined trees with a reciprocating saw. I watched the puppies for a while, and then contemplated a nap, before driving for more coffee, and a jaunt around a discount department store with my wife and her mother, discussing possibilities for patio furniture. We returned home to find the puppies wagging their tails as if with every ounce of energy they possessed.

Now, if I walk out into the backyard, I can look into the past of this tiny landscape and see the care that was once cut into it. I can see the tulips in bloom, the daffodils wilting, the dogwood gathering sun, the bamboo breaking through the sod, and the grass thickening across patches that we’d presumed were dead. There is still work to be done; there always is. But, now, I can imagine how this swath of land might look one day. I can plan a tiny pond, brimming with koi. I can see the lilies blooming in summer sun. I can picture the hummingbirds flitting from blossom to blossom. I can visualize tilled rows of vegetables edged up against the east-facing fence. We have imposed an idea of order upon our slovenly yard, and it is beautiful.

And today was beautiful.

And what have I done to deserve a day like this?

Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

And this too is beautiful.


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