Write Team: Around the yard

Dave McClure

As the run up to the next presidential election shifts into high gear, I can feel myself tense up. I imagine personal attacks among candidates, divisiveness, scrutiny and endless spin. The prospect of the theater that now passes as politics taking up even more of my time and attention makes me queasy. Because of that, I spend more time outside.

The Chicago Tribune carrier pulls onto our driveway and throws the paper up against the garage door early every morning, and the mailman puts the local paper in the mailbox five afternoons a week. You may be reading that local paper right now.

In winter, I can raise our garage door a foot or so and get the paper without going outside. Around Christmas I stopped doing that. Something about starting the day in a bigger space. Deep breaths of fresh air. Looking at the sky. Now, I go outside to get the paper. I take stock of my front yard and check out the neighborhood.

This spring when the prairie grass by the driveway greened up at the bottom I chopped down last year’s dead growth. As the new grass grew taller, I noticed that weedy vine sprouting up too. It hides in the prairie grass, wraps itself around its stalks, and before you know it, foreign spade shaped leaves are all over the place. Happens every year.

This year, paper in hand, I weed it every morning. Amazing how much weeds can grow in a day. Paper in hand I look through the prairie grass and nip that pesky weed in the bud. It’s a daily search and destroy mission. Where did we get that phrase?

After breakfast, I head through the back yard with the Trib and a thermos of coffee. The back yard is bigger and more private. I built a writing shack where the back yard ends and a deep ravine begins. I’m there now, writing on a computer keyboard. As I hit the keys big black letters appear on a lit white screen in front of me. It’s happening right now.

More goes on in the back yard. Early one morning, while checking out a redbud tree at the edge of the ravine, I saw the fox trotting down the line of shrubs and greenery that separate us from the neighbor. The fox looked up at me but never broke stride. It looked tired, as if it had a rough night. It disappeared down into the ravine through a break in the brush. I think the fox lives down there with its family. We co-exist without issue.

A pair of cardinals hatched a clutch of eggs again in our clematis less than ten feet from the back door. We tried to steer clear so as not to scare them off their nest. I didn’t mow close to it for weeks.

There are ground squirrels, more all the time, living under the patio steps. Rabbits and red squirrels of unknown origin show up and look at us curiously, as if we were intruders. I feel like I know them.

The neighbor’s maple tree, healthy looking but hollow, toppled over in a big wind and hit our house a couple weeks ago. Not much damage. When it fell a family of raccoons, instantly homeless, scrambled out and took off. Like the owls we hear at night but never see, they’re around but we don’t know where.

The outside world expands and no longer feels far away. We read local, national, and international news in the paper and online, see it on TV, and hear about it through radio and podcasts. From it all we fashion a world in our minds. Terrible things happen there. They really do. And more terror may be on the way.

Thinking about it can rob you of sleep, ruin your appetite, and make you crazy. I’m not kidding. Try to keep it in perspective. And don’t forget the world right outside your door.

Dave McClure lives in Ottawa. He is a long-retired director of a local private agency. He is also a blogger. You can read more of Dave at Daveintheshack.blogger.com

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