The Ox Cart

This is the only house we have lived in since we moved to Oregon almost nineteen years ago. According to a discolored inspection tag stapled to the wall between studs in the spider-filled garage, the place was built in 1978. When we arrived in 1987, the trees around it were small, the lawn was healthy, and there was ample space for vegetables and flowers. Directly behind the house, someone had planted calendulas, which were thriving against the south-facing wall beneath the kitchen window.

Since then, much has changed. The trees are tall, and have grown together. A pine in the southeast corner of the backyard was ruined by an ice storm a few years ago, and will have to come down. A few years prior to that, another pine did come down, but not until it had dropped one branch on the corner of the neighbor�s garage across the alley, and a second branch on the southwest corner of this dwelling, twisting the gutter and scaring the living daylights out of our youngest son, who had been asleep at the time. Severe damage was prevented by our rugged old swing, which was mangled when the branch landed on it. My father built the swing in our yard when we still lived on the farm in California. To keep it a surprise for as long as possible, he told his young grandchildren that he was building an ox cart. And so his ox cart was crushed by the branch of a pine tree � but not all of it. The central part of the frame survived, and now we hang baskets of flowers from it in the summer.

We do not own the house. As renters, though, I�m sure we have paid for it several times over. Frankly, it is not a house I would care to own. It has no character, and is nothing more than an assemblage of rooms. But I will say this on its behalf: it has been a safe and decent place to raise our children. In these times and in our war-torn world, this is significant indeed.

Often, when I look out my window, I feel like I am on a ship at sea. When I stop work and step outside, it is a strange land I feel beneath my feet. The natives look at me and are puzzled. Some are friendly, some are hostile, some are bored or do not care. As they go by, I study the lines in their faces, absorb their expressions, and listen to their voices. I am always saddened by those who seem to know very little about themselves, and who appear to be afraid to learn. But I realize they might feel the same way about me. Then I climb back aboard my ship and sail on. I sail on, guided by clouds and stars and dreams.

May 1, 2006

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