Thursday July 3, 2003 11:53 PM
Morning Mowing, Evening Escape

The day was but an infant, the sun fresh hatched. Birds began tentatively their work of warbling in the trees as they awoke. Their singing voices and the occasional hiss of the passing of a rare car, few and far between, were the only sounds to be heard.

The tender youth of the morning, fresh and delicate was a singular and delightful treat seldom experienced. The quiet was delightful.

Delightful, that is, until it was ripped to shreds by the snarl of a starting lawn mower- the roar vulgar and brash in the sweet nascency of this Thursday.

Who could shatter this pane of light? Who could dash this special early hour's peace to bits on the ground?

That's a trick question. It was me.

Yes, as part of our unstoppable march to VJ Day I'd decided last night that I would rise at 5:40 am today and, after a brief shower (It may seem a little silly to you to take a shower before I mow the grass, but this first shower- a second was inevitable at the conclusion of my task- was not to get clean. I simply have to take a shower when I get up. It's like my system initialization procedure. Get up=take a shower.) shorten the grass I'd blatantly neglected for eleven days. Actually, I guess, I'd only neglected it for four days since it was due last Saturday, but I just didn't manage to fit it into the day's events.

The fact that I didn't go to sleep till 1 am since I'd put off getting the trash together till about 11:30 pm and then when I was done putting out the trash I was so sweaty I needed a shower before I got in bed and once I got in bed of course I had to read for about 40 minutes, did not deter me from my intention. Just before I turned out the light I set my first alarm for 5:20 am and my second for 5:40 am and then went to sleep. I was committed.

I don't recall the 5:20 alarm at all, but I do recall the 5:40 alarm. I remember that the clock said 5:42 by the time the beeping had actually awakened me and I'd crossed the room to deactivate the sound. I remember I then sat down on the bed and, demonstrating the worst of posture, dozed for about 5 minutes. I awoke again, saw the time and resolved, ruthlessly martialling my will of iron to animate my balking corpus, to arise and implement my plan.

I was only semi-conscious as I waited for the water temperature to reach optimum and stepped into the shower, but my brane was at full functioning capacity when I stepped out. After roughly four hours of sleep, I wasn't tired, but I was plagued by my personal bane of a short-changed sleep cycle, the nasty stale, stiff feeling in the back of my neck. I don't mind fatigue. I don't even mind don't even mind weariness that much. Sleepiness is only an annoyance when I have to drive, but this feeling in the back of my neck is horrible. It's the main price I pay for a deficit of shut-eye.

This morning, though, I figured it wouldn't bother me long since a fine physical workout was the next item on my to-do list. It was a ¼ after 6 am when I hauled the lawn mower up from the basement through the cellar door. The grass was wet- positively soaked with the dew of the early morning, but the mower is equipped with a mulching blade and I hoped this would allow me to proceed even under the adverse moisture condition.

Gas up, prime, pull- ROAR- the engine comes to life and away I go. Long time readers know that mowing is more to me than just a dreaded task to be procrastinated. Quite the contrary, I enjoy it. I hold the activity in a special regard as a spiritual communion not only with myself in the form of physical labor and solitude but also with nature as I visit every square inch of my estate, tending to it as a farmer to his crops.

The same readers who already knew all that also know that I have a set and formalized method and pattern by which I mow. My yard is divided into zones, or sections which must be traversed in the proper order. Back first, each rear subsection in proper sequence, then front with a second mow of the front with the mower down one notch further if necessary. In between each section a brief pause from my intense pace and a couple swigs of the heavily iced water in my mowin' jug, but the only other stoppage allowable is caused by some sort of mechanical failure like the nut working loose and the left back wheel coming off- as only happened twice this morning.

As I was finishing the side yard, the connecting bridge between front and back, the refuse collectors made their appearance on my street. I looked up and saw them beginning to hoist our first garbage can into the yawning mouth of the great filthy beast they feed for a living. I made my next to final circuit around the middle of the side yard I looked up again to see them finished with what I'd set out such a short time ago.

I waved as one looked my way. He waved back and his coworker then also returned my salute with a smile. As I reflected on this exchange, I found it most rewarding. After all, who waves at the trash men? Who's even up when they go by? Usually when I hear the telltale beep of the back-up warning law requires their beast to carry it's to realize with head-slapping regret that I forgot to drag the cans to the street the night before as I roll over and go back to sleep.

This morning, though, I was there when they came by. I was outside working- me, working when the trash men came by my house! This wave, a brief recognition, the merest flash of acknowledgment was more than just noticing another human's presence. It was the forging of a bond, a fraternity. We were, for about two seconds, brothers. Brothers of the order of the sunrise- the crew that gets the job done before you even open your eyes. Then I mowed the front and I was done with the yard.

I was proud of myself and I felt good, though later in the day my body gave some indications that it's normal envelope of physical activity had been stretched. I felt these indications in a good way, though, as a sort of badge or confirmation of my ability to conquer the slothful nature inherent to my body. I had risen with the sun and completed the task assigned me.

When I got home from work Isaiah had most of his toys picked up. He's not the most gung-ho marine in our forces, but he's joined us in the battle for VJ Day. After a talk with Ruth the other day he's realized the value in picking up his toys "for the baby" because most of his toys have small parts that, as he proclaims, "the baby could choke on". I'm proud of him for this realization and was gratified when I directed him to finish the few toys still strewn in the living room, that though slowly, he did so without the hassle and shouting fit that in the past few weeks has become standard operating procedure. Hopefully such displays are a thing of the past. I know they will become so more and more as we continue and increase our dedication to a squared-away living environment.

Ruth was resting on the couch after making serious headway in the kitchen, our last big theater of battle. When Isaiah finished putting his stuff away I called him to sit on my lap and watch The Munsters with me on TVLand. He's been fascinated by the show for a while, but we don't get to watch it often. When I asked what was for dinner, Ruth said she didn't know and mentioned we needed to go to the store to get mayonnaise for the devilled eggs she's supposed to make to take to her folk's house tomorrow for the traditional Independence day cookout. Then she rather slyly mentioned that she had a coupon for the Pasta House.

We did end up going to the Pasta House and Isaiah was very good there. Unlike the little creep in the next booth. The kid refused to turn around, and was frequently staring at us when he wasn't VA-ROOMING his hotwheels along the ledge between the edges of our booths. At one point when the kid was peeling-out particularly loudly Ruth sighed and rolled her eyes with a grimace on her face. "Just ignore him," I said quietly enough to be private I thought, but loud enough to be heard in the next booth, I guess, since the parents immediately made a big deal of making the kid turn around and shut up. Through the whole thing, Isaiah was very calm and ignored the kid impressively. He didn't eat much of his spaghetti, but after sitting still and chattering in appropriately quiet voice through the meal I didn't mind at all.

Our next destination was the fireworks on the Mississippi. For some irritating reason, Alton has had it's fireworks display on the evening of the third of July for the past couple of years and tonight they were to begin at approximately 9:15. We got to where we wanted to park about 9-ish and parked on a side street right between two full-t-the-brim parking lots. We walked about two blocks to the city hall parking lot and found a fine spot facing the river with a clear view of the whole sky.

The evening was warm, but endowed with a fine breeze and we were comfortable as we sat on the tall curb waiting for the show to start. Once again, Isaiah's behavior was exemplary as we waited about 15 minutes.

Last year we didn't get to see any fireworks because he was frightened by the sound of the small fireworks set off by people waiting for the real show and we had to go home well before any real fireworks started. This year, though, he'd announced "I'm a big boy. I'm not going to be scared." and he wasn't. He sat through the lion's share of the pyrotechnics with his hands over his ears, but he was also smiling and giggling. He must be a big boy now, because he really enjoyed the fireworks.

Parking on the street turned out to be a very good play. When the show was over we walked back to the van and simply drove off. In fact, we picked the right side streets to turn onto on our way home to avoid the congested snarl of those departing that was scattered all around us. We were home in no more time that it would have taken us from where we'd parked on a normal evening.

I was pretty proud of getting out of the traffic till I realized we'd forgotten to go by the store for the mayo.