Lately I seem to have been retreating from the regular rhythms of life. There are, of course, the general health concerns surrounding the pandemic, as well as a minor but related disappointment: as I was wrapping up my annual sewing projects for the county fair, I learned there will be no needlework display/competition this year.
I am also missing not having my doors and windows open for fresh breezes to waft through my house. All winter I live – gratefully, of course – in an enclosed space whose air is mechanically controlled for comfort and health, all the while anticipating summer and the freedom associated with those open windows and doors. With the current heat and humidity at stiflingly high levels, I have retreated – gratefully, of course – to an enclosed space whose air is mechanically controlled for comfort and health.
I had hoped the nation’s birthday celebration would inject some enjoyable excitement into my midsummer days. But moments of grandness and greatness never seemed to arrive. Oh, there were spectacular fireworks and the expected rhetoric in iconic red-white-blue settings. But divisive wrangling has cast a pall over our American spirit, these days in rather short supply – just when we need it most. As I completed my annual reading of the Declaration of Independence, the last line stood out as sadly distant: we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor. I felt myself retreat a little further.
Being an optimist at heart, however, I determined to refocus my flagging spirit and soon discovered an entire array of greats and grands to savor and celebrate – right in my own life!
For example, my great niece’s latest project, her art stand, made my heart smile. This almost-nine-year-old entrepreneur put a new spin on the old lemonade stand concept by selling her artwork for a dollar each, even following up with a second session. So enterprising!
And several folks in my family-and-friends circle are on the move. My nephew in Chicago recently took up residence in a home with a glorious sunroom. My niece in North Carolina and her husband are trading their tiny townhouse for a spacious open-concept home with a white kitchen and grand staircase. My math-teacher niece in Cincinnati dipped her toe into the world of real estate by buying her very first house. But the greatest new-home story happened in Westerville, my old college stomping grounds, when a fellow Boomer found just the right condo in just the right location with just the right amenities for just the right price. Happiness all around!
I must confess, however, that the greatest and grandest occurrence happened last week – literally in my own backyard – part of the ongoing saga of my inability to see the forest for the trees, again literally. One of the major reasons I bought this house fifteen years ago was the beautiful view its location provided, overlooking an expansive tract of farmland with a woods just beyond. I have delighted in season after season of sharing the changing landscape colors and coverings with deer, squirrels, and all manner of birdlife. Sunrises and storms and the occasional rainbow never fail to impress as they color the sky right outside the windows lining my living room.
Also part of that natural scene have been my trees, a huge cedar and an ornamental pear tree, gradually and unfortunately developing misshapen boughs and branches while ever further encroaching on my beloved vista.
The need for substantial tree-trimming existed for the several years I allowed myself to procrastinate: in such matters, what I do not know totally outdistances what I do know. Thus, nothing but unchecked tree growth and ever-shrinking access to my lovely view continued unabated.
In the middle of the winter-that-was-not-really-a-winter, Katha Dill’s Facebook photos of her landscaping improvements inspired me to broach the subject of trees with my brother-in-law. Come spring, he agreed to serve as a general contractor of sorts and arranged the services of a tree trimmer for June. Actually, he had to schedule a second company after the first one frustrated us with three weeks of empty promises and dodged text messages.
The results were immediate and breathtaking. My original vantage has been restored, my sightline again reaching all the way to the woods in the distance. I simply had not realized just how limited my view had become.
I have been spending extra time just staring out the window. The sky seems bluer, the clouds fluffier, the animals closer – and I love watching the leaves of the corn ripple in unison any time the wind drifts across the field on the other side of my fence. I think I am enjoying my view more now than ever before!
I am realistic enough to know that our national problems will not be solved easily or soon. But I also know that in the coming weeks when “the world is too much with me,” I will simply breathe in the fresh air that will eventually enter my home through open doors and windows as I cast attention to my newly-panoramic backyard scene. I will simultaneously contemplate the art sales of a little girl and the new surroundings of loved ones, all the while stitching in preparation for next year’s needlework display. Just knowing I am already surrounded by my own personal greats and grands gives me solace – I am feeling better already!
Shirley Scott, a 1966 graduate of Graham High School, is a native of Champaign County. After receiving degrees in English and German from Otterbein College, she returned to GHS in 1970 where she taught until retiring in 2010. From 1976-2001 she coordinated the German Exchange Program with the Otto-Hahn-Gymnasium in Springe.