My writing window has an area of thirty square feet. From there, I look out over my front yard. I look up from writing to see our mail lady delivering the mail. I watch the FedEx guy carry boxes big and small up driveways and leave them on porches. I watch my neighbor on her John Deere lawn tractor mow her yard while the junior high school bus loops the neighborhood dropping kids off. My dogs bark at everything they see or hear through my writing window to let passers-by know the house is well-protected.
My front yard is wooded, but I can see the neighborhood despite the trees. I have a glimpse of the world through my thirty square feet of window that allows me to observe human nature in all its glory, hope, and desperation. I know enough about my neighbors to know we are a microcosm of America and the world. I know when they are happy, and when they are not. I know when their kids are in trouble and when they’ve been awarded gold stars at school. I know my neighbor’s daughter is a great volleyball player, and their son quick to grab a snow shovel and shovel a neighbor’s driveway without asking. My other neighbors’ kids are dating, marrying, and away to college. If I visit my county’s government website, I can find out how much my neighbors paid for their homes and the current assessment value. I can visit another website and find contact information for my local, state, and national government representatives. Another website lists criminal activity and court dates for my county, as well as addresses of convicted sex offenders.
I speak to just about everybody in the neighborhood when I walk my dogs, rescued Labrador Retriever/Great Dane mixes named Yoshi and Yukio. Yoshi I call Mr. Needy; he’s so sensitive. Yukio, half the size of Yoshi’s 100 pounds, I call Mr. Napoléon Complex. My neighbors are hardworking and self-reliant. Some are retired, some newlyweds, some new parents. I’ve watched kids grow up and move away in the thirteen years my wife and I have lived here. This is the longest I have lived in one place. I was raised an Air Force brat constantly on the move, and spent twenty-seven years in the Navy, constantly on the move. It’s strange staying put in one place.
But this is a great neighborhood and I like living here. This morning is cold, the sun is shining, the wind is brisk, and my flag is whipping around the flag staff. The flag is quite beautiful, though faded and in need of replacement. When I raise the new flag, I will give the old one to the Boy Scouts to retire in a respectful ceremony. Side note: Some people bemoan the fact that many American flags are manufactured overseas. In fact, many people demand Congress pass a law requiring the American flag be manufactured only in America. I don’t agree with that sentiment. I believe the more people throughout the world who see our star spangled banner the better. I think our flag represents hope for many people; I don’t mind who sews it.
There are no telephone poles carrying power lines in my neighborhood. The power lines are buried for aesthetic reasons. However, off to one side of my driveway sit three power boxes that serve my end of the neighborhood, one box each for telephone, cable, and electric service. They are ugly, and the one thing I would change about my neighborhood. I want to drape camouflage webbing over them but that would only draw attention to them. They also sit crooked. That bugs me. If the county wants to hide power lines for aesthetic reasons, the least it could do is place the power boxes level and hide them from sight. For whatever reason, they are ugly and crooked, and I’ll have to live with it. I’ve landscaped around them, and keep them clean of droppings and dirt. They are on my property, and I take pride in how my yard appears from the street. I also take pride in my neighborhood and the people who live here.
Most of all, I take pride in America. This neighborhood is my part of America and I love it for its cross-sectional representation of my great country. I love America and my neighbors do, too. But there are a lot of ugly and crooked people who call out America as a terrible place. They don’t see the great America for the bad. They dwell so much on America’s past that they fail to see her greatness. They’d rather tear her down than landscape her beauty. I wish I could landscape around those people. America has never been a perfect nation, but it has been far less imperfect than any other. I don’t understand people who see it the other way around.