The rain had stopped. I stood at the kitchen window looking out over my backyard. The water had receded and the tall grass and weeds were waving gently in the breeze. Sunshine winked through the lush and green tree branches overhead.
I opened the patio door for the first time in several months. Tall weeds greeted me from between the patio bricks. There was a sense of neglect and antiquity in the air, like that moment in the Mekong Delta when the long-forgotten moss and vine-covered temple emerged from the shadows just beyond the river.
I stood there in the dappled sunshine listening. For what, I wasn’t sure. I knew the sharks were gone and the frogs had retreated to the koi pond. What was out there? Lions? Tigers, bears? (Oh, my.) Maybe a tiger lurking and hungry in the tall grass.
Cautiously, I grabbed my sharp machete and launched into the growth, relying on my compass and memory to lead me to the barn and the lawn tractor. Would it even start? I wondered. I slashed away and hoped for the best, wishing for a brief moment that I still had my big-game rifle. Indiana Jones, eat your heart out.
OK, a slight exaggeration. I wasn’t really worried about tigers, and I hadn’t seen a bear in the neighborhood for a long time. On the other hand, it was only last fall that a fox streaked across our yard, and on several occasions coyotes have ventured out from behind the garden shed.
And I wasn’t concerned about small animals. Our family of hawks has been with us for four years. Each spring, a new fledgling flutters down from the nest in the tall elm tree across the street, and the parents scream instructions on how to hunt from nearby branches. Eventually, the young bird figures things out, snags an unfortunate chipmunk or mole and then spends a few minutes on the ground trying to figure out what to do next.
Remarkably, the tractor started on the first try, and I spent the next two hours slowly grinding through the tall vegetation, the smell of new-mown weeds wafting through the young summer air. Later, I would take my golf-swing weed cutter into the corners and hidden spaces that surround my acre-plus yard.
When the grass was cut and the weeds were down, I stood in the sun and surveyed what I had done. And I saw that what I had done was expose the broken fence, the splintered deck boards and the unpainted trim on the house.
And I realized that even Indiana Jones got a day off once in awhile.