Yesterday, already behind schedule for the morning, I emerged from the house to find my car completely covered … with caterpillar poop. My parking space is beneath a large maple tree inhabited, it would seem, by thousands of inchworms. And the tiny black pellets don’t just brush off. Oh no — they stick like tar.
Add to this the fact that it’s been overcast or raining for more than a week now. And last night’s downpour only made matters worse, turning the worm poop into a tenacious sludge that now also filled the rubber ravines around all of the door seals.
For weeks before this, the car was buried daily beneath a clogging downpour of yellow buds from the same maple.
I got in and maneuvered the muck-mobile closer to the hose then, using the highest pressure the nozzle afforded, I did my best to power wash the goop away.
Tick-tock. Tick-tock. This was all making me even later.
As I worked my way around the car, I noticed the state of the gravel drive. Mostly mud now. Large sections of the gravel had been scraped away during the winter by careless plowmen, and now lay choking out the grass to one side of the lot.
On the other side, the hedgerow was already becoming straggly; and underneath, weeds had sprung up and were beginning to entangle themselves with the good growth.
One more turn revealed a gutter broken from winter ice and a wide crack in one of the eaves, the latter of which may be the nesting place of the flying ants that have been invading the kitchen and living room — even the bedroom — of late.
I’ve loved having the windows open again, feeling the cross breeze as it flirts with the sheer white curtains I chose for just that purpose.
The rain we’ve gotten has left the yard and town a verdant green. And the peepers have begun their nightly chorus.
As I hosed off the car, I could pick out no fewer than 10 different bird calls from the surrounding woods. Recently, I’d learned to identify a chickadee by sight and sound, and I smiled at the fact that it was now so obvious. In fact, I was able to add to the list a host of others before the day was out: mourning doves, cardinals, jays, goldfinches, titmice and wrens. And that feeling of curiosity that leads to learning makes me feel alive.
Each of those turns around my car as I cleaned it off (which took perhaps five minutes), I saw beauty. Yes, the gravel has been removed from parts of the lot; but that is the same area where, at any given time, I can watch a dozen or more species gathered around the bird feeders.
I love my apartment. It really does feel like a Paris flat or a vacation home on Cape Cod. And I never lose sight of the fact that the landlord, Judy, allowed me — a stranger — to move in by reducing her original rent request by $100 a month. I get along great with her daughter who lives downstairs and acts as property manager. And she takes care of any issues that arise quickly and happily. As soon as she noticed the broken trim, she was seeking a contractor. She had a specialist here this week to figure out the flying ant issue. And she really does keep up with the hedges, which just happen to grow quickly with lots of rain.
By the front porch, a cluster of purple flowers is growing. My neighbor, who had also educated me on the bird calls, informed me that the previously unknown plant was purple ajuga.
One more turn revealed the pink and white dogwood in full bloom, stretching to form an archway over the drive — a living painting more spectacular than any Thomas Kinkade.
Everything that I described in both narratives above is 100% true. Moreover, both descriptions are equally accurate.
I was keenly aware this morning of the choices I faced regarding where I focused my attention, and of the way in which those choices would shape the rest of my day. It felt somehow surreal, a superimposing of alternate realities — or, perhaps better stated, simultaneous realities. I could feel my internal lens adjusting, causing some elements to blur and fade into the background, while others loomed larger, gaining clarity.
We are not passive bystanders. Each of us is an active participant, creating the images and moods that fill our frame. There is no paint-by-number, no auto-focus to the mind’s eye.
Just as with any artist, what winds up on the canvas of our lives is a matter of perspective combined with the choices we make along the way.