The View From the Back Window

Look out your back window or door — describe what you see, as if you were trying to convey the scene to someone from another country or planet.

Our backyard gives off the vibe of spring wrestling with old man winter to control the scenery. There’s enough green grass (weeds) to give the illusion that spring is winning, but the stark branches and barren vines remind me that winter may have a few more gasps before he relents for the year.

Even the deck feels like a battlefield. The tarp which neatly covered and protected our lawn furniture through 100 inches of snow is slowly slipping free and snapping briskly in the winds with little regard for our efforts to tame it with bricks and rocks. I’m tempted to set it free to enjoy the new beginning, but I know that same wind would send lawn chairs careering across the deck with the same feckless abandon as a stray plastic bag.

Behind our yard is an empty field that may or may not become a private dog park. For now, it is home to neighborhood mutts on a leash with their owner and to suburbanites who turn around at its entrance, apparently having missed their destination. This field, too, is bursting with early spring green, reminding those of us who worked for years to clean up the lot that nature can overcome a lot if given a chance. That field is filled with pollution and chemicals and spills and dumpings and yet the tough sturdy urban grass grows as do the wildflowers that will burst forth in late May with their healing properties reclaiming a space that can be returned to the community.

I see the West End Bridge – how many Pittsburghers have a bridge spanning their backyard? I can’t see the traffic, just the glorious expanse of yellow that connects our home to another part of the City. I see the Cardello Building which is near impossible to actually find via a car. I’ve only been inside that building once, but the exterior is as familiar to me – as my own backyard?

I see feral cats peering through our neighbor’s chainlink fence, eager to sun themselves on our deck but unwilling to encounter one of our dogs. Birds alight on the fence posts surrounding our yard, some swaying merrily on the power lines. They are brave around the dogs. The immediate vicinity is quiet, almost peaceful with a perimeter of traffic noise from Route 65 and the bridges and, a little later on, rush hour home. It is the kind of quiet where you hear the postman coming and notice unusual vehicles parked in typically untouched stretches of the street. The kind of quiet of an almost dead-end street where curtains twitch to see whose coming as the loose gravel of the broken street pavement crunches under tires.

The view is a bit fuzzy – the minute the blinds are pulled, some cat or another jumps on the ledge eager to survey their kingdom from safely inside the house. If I look through the door window, a dog pushes insistently against my leg equally eager to go outside and simply sniff. Even at 12 with weary bones and arthritic joints, they recognize the change and are eager to spend long hours in the sun and to stretch their legs in our (miraculously) large backyard.

The view is one of transformation and promise and the pungent scent of new beginnings.



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