We are back in Milwaukee where, out my office window, I can see that the enormous red dumpster that has been sitting across the street for months is still there as is the giant tree trunk with its glorious limbs amputated a year ago, my own dystopian still life.
Yesterday, I was looking at the world’s largest freshwater lake. Lake Superior is, if you’ll permit me some elaboration, larger than Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New Hampshire put together. It is an enormous lake with a personality of an ocean – not that I would know, my ocean-going experience being pretty scant – but Superior is calm and glassy and then wild and roaring, usually without warning, which doesn’t matter if you’re just watching from shore. If you are in a boat, that is a different matter. Superior is stunning no matter what time of day or weather or mood you are in. I have photographic evidence.
But, I am not in the U.P. walking alongside that rolling inland sea and watching the massive ships that pass by on the horizon. I am here with the dumpster and the chopped, unsightly stump of a tree, and an overgrown lawn, a porch pocked with peeling paint and the embedded blossoms of deadheaded petunias, a hand railing that wobbles from side to side, a garden that is rife with weeds and bare spots awaiting long-promised transplants, and an across-the-driveway neighbor whose many planks of lumber leaned against his fence will, no doubt, add an unfortunate work-a-man touch to the baby shower I’m giving in just three days.
“Pobrecito,” my inner adult whispers. “You had to come home from your vacation home and be in the city where there is, God forbid, a dumpster and an ugly tree in your sight? And then, on top of these offenses to the heart and soul, you must clean your house and mow your lawn and give your daughter a baby shower? How will you survive this travail, oh dear one?”
I take my inner adult’s sympathy and roll it around on my tongue like cheap wine. It is all the pity I will get so I savor it.