Growing old is fascinating. There are things that matter and things that don’t, and when I was younger I assumed that when I was older I’d have a better understanding of the difference between the two. I’ve lived all of my adult days with a deep awareness of the finitude of my existence, never once feeling immortal, or otherwise cavalier about the number of my remaining days. Sometimes, this awareness is problematic. I’ve never once thought that something couldn’t happen to me. I’ve instead thought that something is likely to happen to me. Sure, this thing happens to one out of twelve thousand people, but who says I can’t be that one? Am I not just as likely to be that one as the person who is, ultimately, the one? This is how I think and you can understand how it might be troublesome.
This awareness of my short life has given me a rather profound appreciation for the seasons of life, and for the seasons of each year. Life, even if short, is a time of preparation and a time of reflection. It’s nothing more than preparing, experiencing, and remembering. There’s absolutely no other state of being. And increasingly, the preparation matters to me as much as the experiencing, and far more than the remembering. This week the preparation isn’t obviously profound, unless you really think about it.
My lawn is a remarkable lawn. Nevermind that I can’t have it fertilized or weed-treated unless my wife happens to be out of town for a few days, it’s still a terrific lawn. The trick of this lawn is that it wasn’t ever really intended to be a lawn. When I purchased the property that would become my home, it was nothing more than an old farmstead surrounded by scraggly trees and hay. When it came time to build, I scraped away the old and constructed the new, all the while rough mowing the hay field into a shorter lawn to keep it manageable. Over time, the field become more and more lawn like, and today you’d be hard pressed to consider it as anything but what it is: my lawn. Sure I overseeded it a bunch and snuck in some weed treatments here and there when my wife wasn’t looking, but it’s still very much a hay field at its core. It grows and grows, during drought and during monsoons, so I can cut it on a Sunday and again on a Wednesday only to cut it again on Saturday.
That’s why I had to mow it again yesterday afternoon. But yesterday’s mow was different. It was the last mow of the season. That sort of mow is the one that doesn’t really need to be done, but it still has to be done. I mowed the lawn and I stacked the lawn furniture in a winter pile on my back patio. This morning my wife told me the furniture should be stacked in the garage, the new one that I’m building to house the various collection of toys that I add to from time to time. Still, the furniture was stacked and the lawn was mowed and the lawn mower had gas treatment added to it to make sure the gas stays somewhat potent over its stagnant stay in storage. The large green tractor was put away, too, though it’ll be called into duty when the first plowable snow falls.
I have more hoses than most. I tell you that not to brag, but certainly so you know that you’re not dealing with the sort of guy who has one or two hoses. I have many, though most are leaking from various cuts inflicted by the lawn mower blades. I should be able to mow over that hose, I think, just before I slice that innocent hose section to shreds. The hoses need to be removed from the hose bibs before the freeze comes, so I walk from location to location with a large pliers and a can of WD-40, wrestling each hose free from its summertime bond.
My bird feeders are mostly dormant in the summer months, at least once the Orioles leave. But in the winter, these feeders are alive with random birds. Mostly wrens, I would suppose. I bought a 40 pound bag of birdseed over the weekend, and yesterday I carefully poured the seeds into our largest feeder. The smaller feeders are filled with other seeds, and some are filled with those greasy cakes of fat that certain birds like. The whole bird-feeder-filling process took me perhaps 15 minutes, and when I was done I stood back and congratulated myself for considering the well-being of my feathery winter friends. Nearby, the shrubs shook as my omnivorous dog gobbled up the seeds that I spilled.
With the lawn mowed, the patio furniture stacked in the wrong location, the hoses removed, the bird feeders filled, tractor put away, the gas stabilizer added to various small engine gas tanks, it was time to tackle the last remaining piece of winter prep. My Yamaha Superjet was once the pride of my fleet, but over the past two summers it has gone largely unloved. My children think it’s “Stupid”. My wife says that when I ride it I look “stupid”. Those jealous arrows serve only as motivation to keep the Superjet. But as of November 17th, that stand-up jet ski was still in the water, so it was time to do the thing I do each November and drive it from the pier to the launch, in 46 degree water, with no wet-suit, like a real man. So that’s what I did, and by nightfall my most cherished and under-used toy was resting comfortably in my garage where it’ll spend the next six months.
I walked back to the house last night, across my beautifully striped lawn and past my strong stack of firewood. My house was prepared for the harshness of a Wisconsin winter. And because my property was prepared, that meant that my family was prepared. In my modestly older age I find great satisfaction in the preparation, and we haven’t even talked about how great I feel when I change my furnace filters and add salt to the water softener.