Have you ever thought about where the perfect place to live might be, and then wondered why you weren’t living there? I’m sure there are plenty of people who aren’t lottery winners who live in Hawaii or have a pastoral cabin with a panoramic view of the Rockies, but most of us look at that as the stuff of vacations, not as a possible full-time residence. In spite of the obvious awesomeness of these idyllic locations, I’m positive that these people have their moments when they wish, for whatever reason, that they lived in Nebraska.
I do my best pondering on the back porch, and was thinking about this the other morning as I was watching a grass hamster (scientific name: chipmunk) bounce around the yard, going from rock to lawn to tree to pile of sunflower seed hulls and then disappearing under a shrub. I don’t know where these little beasties go in the winter because I never see them until spring, but once they show up, they seem pretty happy. In fact, the very definition of happy is likely a chipmunk. I don’t believe they leave New York for someplace warmer; say Florida, for example. That’s a long way to spastically leap in a straight line, so however they do it, they find a way to adapt.
Over the past eleven years, Mrs. G. and I have fashioned a place that on most days, feels as good as anywhere we might go on vacation. If there was a view of the water it would be perfect, but I’d have to crane my neck a good ten miles to the north to get that, so I’ll settle for a 9.5 out of 10.
At the moment, most of our enjoyment is on hold because the massive white pine trees in our yard have been spewing out clouds of Cheeto dust (scientific name: pine pollen), which has coated everything both inside and out with a layer of sticky yellow powder. Interestingly enough, I recently found out that there are naturalists who actually covet this stuff and intentionally seek out the male catkins and eat them raw! They claim they taste like apples.
What these folks don’t eat in the field, they gather to make tea or some kind of tincture that cures what ails them, including but not limited to usage as an aphrodisiac. This is vital for a naturalist since most of them look as if they’ve just sailed in on the HMS Beagle on their way to the khaki shop to buy a new floppy hat and maybe a walking staff because they’ve worn the one they have to the nub. I also found out that this pollen, once processed, sells for $34.95 for two ounces. I think there’s at least five pounds of it in our vacuum cleaner, so by my math, I may have stumbled onto my retirement fund. Make me an offer, you foraging, horny nomads.
The onslaught of pollen will last another week or so, but that is quickly being replaced by the screen fairies (scientific name: poplar tree fuzzballs), which are blowing around like a January blizzard, catching in every screen in every window in the house. We have air conditioning, but it is largely ornamental because the windows are always fully open around here. Unfortunately, the screen fairies don’t filter out the Cheeto dust, so there really isn’t much use for them. Between the pollen and the poplar fuzzballs, I feel as if our backyard is ground zero for tree reproduction. In a few months, every square inch of open dirt will be filled with small trees, abandoned by their irresponsible tree baby daddies.
It’s always something.
We’ve recently escaped the no-seeums (scientific name: biting midge @#$%&! bugs), which hone in on my dear wife as if she were their only food source. They breed in a nearby creek and once hatched, the hungry female offspring and their mothers find Mrs. G. and haunt her every outdoor movement for about two weeks. The no-seeums don’t really bother me, but they do seem to find my ears attractive. They aren’t as bad as the mosquitoes though, which woke up the moment the temperature rose above seventy degrees. We layer on OFF! as if it were sunscreen, which skin scientists tell us is also necessary should we step outdoors in any sort of condition where the moon isn’t visible. Each year it seems as if mosquitoes harbor some sort of new virus or disease, so we bought ourselves a handheld zapper that resembles a racquetball racquet, except this racquet has two “C” batteries and a high-voltage wire mesh surface. My new summer recreational activity is now paddlebug.
Outside of this, there’s the poison ivy, which is sneaky because while we’re aware of the entire “leaf of three” thing, it’s hard to avoid the places those leaves have touched, so each of us will get an annual dose of the rash no matter how hard we try to avoid it. Oh, and then there’s some sort of lawn rust that turns my shoes, the lawnmower, and the dog the color of a new penny. That lasts about a week.
In spite of all this, I still think this is just about the perfect place to be. The other night, a tree frog settled on the ledge below the open living room window, and while his hundred decibel trilling scared the bejeezus out of us at first, it was kind of cool. We both went outside barefoot and in our pajamas to get a closer look at the little guy.
Oh sure, a beachside condo in Hawaii must be nice but how much of that can anyone take? I know what we have here, and in some odd, weird way, these micro-seasons of pests and pollen are a part of it. If I had to move and get used to a brand new flavor of weirdness, I’m not sure I’d like it. In fact, I’d miss what we have here.
So welcome to my paradise, and flawed though it may be, it’s our corner of the world and as the saying goes—there’s no place like home. At this point in my life, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.