Short Stories From 10 Years Ago – November 2, 2004
The View From My Office Window
Short Stories From 10 Years Ago – November 2, 2004 – In an earlier story I mentioned the fence tops that make up the Squirrel Highway that is visible from my office window. As I sat here today and worked, I was once again struck by the beauty of the changing seasons in Canada.
It was a typical, gray, damp November day and the clocks have been set back for the fall, so already at four-thirty it had started to get dark. The rain had slackened and the trees were still and quiet. Not a breath of wind existed to ripple the leaves that remained on their branches. The lane was dotted with water-filled pot holes and a blanket of leaves covered the ground, from my house to the end of the road.
The tree trunks were wet on one side and dry on the other, testimony to the direction of the earlier rain. Now that the trees are almost barren, I could see the blue tarpaulin that covered the entire back yard of one of my neighbour’s yards. In the summer they had some exuberant parties under that canopy. One in particular was in honour of the Athens’ Olympics, and the Greek family who live there partied in fine style until the wee hours of the morning. I really didn’t mind the noise – they were so cheerful and had such a good time that it was hard to be annoyed.
A man walked by below my window with his dog – a black, standard poodle. He (the dog) visited each and every fence post and tree stump, challenging the markers left by Augie and the rest of the lane dogs. They disappeared down the lane, and moments later three women walked by and stopped to point at my pergola. One nodded her head up and down and they all smiled and moved along. They had no idea that I was sitting in my office looking out the window. Things were quiet for awhile and then I heard Trouble the black squirrel scolding the sparrows at the bird feeder.
He was having an absolute melt down. I looked out the window and chuckled as he chased one of his grey brethren out of the yard and down the squirrel highway, his tail flicking his irritation. He returned in a moment and took up residence in his favourite place beside the feeder, to wait for the sparrows to drop seeds. He left routinely during the afternoon with his cheeks stuffed with goodies.
Cars drove up and down the lane at unpredictable intervals, as my neighbours came and went throughout the afternoon. I wondered where they were going and if they were ever curious about me when I leave my house. Here we all are, living in close proximity, but carrying on completely different lives. I have a friendly, nodding acquaintanceship with my fellow lane dwellers.
Everyone is chatty but incredibly respectful of each other’s privacy. Still, I think that within this little microcosm of the “lane” there will be births, deaths, job losses, affairs, financial woes, family feuds, neighbour resentments, tales of dysfunctional parents and siblings, illness, company related transfers to other cities and countries, goals pursued and then won or lost, as well as great triumphs and bitter disappointments.
It’s five thirty now – dark outside and my neighbours have started to arrive home from work – or other destinations unknown. Two cars arrived together. The drivers parked and stopped to chat for a few moments before they went into their respective homes. The city lights in the lane have been turned on and now a few dogs have appeared – jumping at the ends of their leashes – and happy to be dragging their humans along on doggie bathroom parade. I imagined the end of day conversations that will have started in the homes up and down the lane. Dinners cooking and kids reporting on school activities. In some homes, fights from earlier in the day will have resumed, while in others, apologies will have been extended and ruffled feathers will have settled back into place.
Life moved along up and down the lane. I marvelled at the tenuous hold we all have on this gift of living. A person’s world can change in a moment, either in the fulfilment of a long-held dream or the shattering of an existing happiness. As I sat and gazed out my window today, I was once again profoundly grateful for all the things that I took for granted during last week’s poor spell. Personal growth happens that way – a step forward and one back. Perhaps a two step to the side, but eventually, if I’m lucky, back on track again. I am truly one of the fortunate ones!
I’m just about to leave to spend the evening with friends, watching the returns of the election south of the 49th. One of those men (hopefully Kerry) will soon be feeling lucky – the other less so. But the thing about living, is that tomorrow will arrive and I’ll be given another twenty-four hours to participate in life and to contribute in some small way to what is good.
If I fail to meet that obligation, the world won’t give up on me, so it’s important to remember not to give up on it. It’s amazing what an hour looking out a window can do for me – I highly recommend it. The experience is greatly enhanced by a cup of tea with honey.