Wafting comes the mower’s comforting hum,
Assuring all is just as it should be.
Our gates and fences all are rightly plumb,
We celebrate our capability.
New curbs and gutters sluice away wild rain,
Alarms and locks protect our doors from breach,
Our lives arranged to minimize our pain,
Designed to keep us safely out of reach.
But wreaking roots upheave the sidewalk path,
And worms devour our precious woolen thread,
The black and red mold creep into our bath,
Insomnia disturbs our peace in bed.
Despite our engineering and our math,
Our paradise is something less instead.
Notes: Summer-ish weather has come to the Pacific Northwest. It seems fitting to haul out this old sonnet.
Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate material comforts and modern conveniences. Probably even more than most of my friends and colleagues.
I was born in the middle of the last century, and started out life on a farm that was primitive, even for that time.
How primitive? Well, we milked our own cow, raised our own chickens for eggs, butchered our own hogs, and raised our own vegetables in the garden.
For special occasions and Sunday dinners, Mother would grab one of the slower chickens, chop off its head, and fry it up.
When we sold our farm to the Amish, they took one look at the house, and commenced on an immediate upgrading and remodeling project.
As for me, I was delighted in my new home in a Missouri farm town of 12 thousand souls. For the first time in my life I had my own room, central heat, and indoor plumbing.
I could finally take a bath in something that wasn’t a galvanized wash tub in the middle of the kitchen floor. In freshly drawn water that hadn’t been previously used by other members of the family.
I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. I didn’t even notice that we didn’t have air conditioning, even when the Missouri summer visited its oppressive humidity and triple-digit heat upon us.
So, I am thankful for many things. I am certainly grateful for indoor plumbing and running water. I am so thankful I can enjoy sardines from Norway and wine from France.
I am grateful for antibiotics, and the miracles of modern medicine. I missed the polio epidemic, but just barely. Had I been just a couple of years older, I could have suffered withered limbs or worse, like the older brothers and sisters of some of my friends who were not so fortunate.
All of my ancestors as far back as I can research were dirt farmers. I am grateful for a professional job in a meaningful enterprise. (Inside work. No heavy lifting.)
Many years ago, when I moved out to Seattle, we settled in the suburbs because — even then — the city was too expensive. We made a serendipitous choice, because our little suburb has become a highly desirable place for Microsoft employees coming here to live from all over the world.
Heck, in one of those specious magazine “Top 15” lists, our little suburb was once ranked the “Most Friendly Town in America.”
Crime is low. Violent crime is virtually non-existent. The weather is temperate. People take care of their property. Unemployment is not really an issue. People of seemingly every tribe and tongue live side-by-side here in peace. You can walk or jog without fear.
Pinch me because sometimes I start to fool myself into thinking we live in paradise.
Yet, it is good to remember that even heaven on earth is not really heaven.