I have to admit it hasn’t been a great year. There’s been all this unpleasantness about inflation, the insurrection and a mass shooting every other day. Even Taylor Swift had to face some troubling developments that for once wasn’t about some boy in skinny jeans not knowing what he gave up when he dumped her or when she dumped him—I don’t know much about Taylor Swift or her music. I’ve heard though, there’s a lot of dumping going on in her songs.
At any rate, Taylor’s unpleasantness came about when some super clever Virginia Tech Phd. named a millipede he discovered in Tennessee after the mega popstar. He called it: Nannaria swiftae or Swift twisted-claw millipede. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t be too thrilled to have a hundred-legged creepy crawly thing that slithers out of the bathroom drain and startles you just as you’re about to get in the shower named after me. I’m not even close to being a popstar with a penchant for making hit songs about boys in skinny jeans dumping me or me dumping them, but I would find this very unsettling.
Still, like T-Swizzle I’ve had my share of distressing moments this year too, from getting Covid to a hefty repair bill because I didn’t properly winterize the water system in my mini-RV. I drained the tank, but didn’t blow out the lines and add antifreeze. I’m new to all this mini-RV, van life stuff. My brother says there’s always a price to pay when you’re new to something. He calls it—The Dumb Tax. It’s the tax you pay for being dumb about something and not properly winterizing the water system in your mini-RV is pretty dumb. But, still it’s not like my house burned down or I don’t have food to eat. It’s more like having a broken table leg and an expired carton of milk in the fridge. Of course, all of this has been offset by the banner year it’s been looking out the window.The window in question is in the little back room of my house where I spend most of my time. My desk, laptop and books are in that room along with a flat screen TV where I watch clips of Josh Allen on YouTube. Being from Buffalo, except for thirteen heartbreaking seconds it’s been a banner year for watching clips of Josh Allen. But when I’m not at my desk pecking away at my laptop or watching clips of Josh Allen, I’m usually sitting at the end of my couch looking out that window into my yard. Sometimes with a book and sometimes with a coffee or a cold drink. But mostly it’s a lot of sitting and looking out the window.
Besides not being touchy about how you pet her, KFB is a forty-nine pound Jack Russell/Lab mix who is prey intensive and a lightning fast runner. She also is a sweetheart and a big wiggler. All I have to do is look at her and her back end starts to shake all over the place. And forget about it when I’m sitting at one end of the couch looking out the window and she’s at the other end and I give her a little scratch, she shakes like call girls walking down the street in a bad 1970’s cop show.
My wife used to shake like that when I gave her a little scratch, but now she just sighs. I get it—we’ve been together a long time and it’s hard to get excited and shake for a man who dribbles on the bathroom floor and everyday for nearly thirty-years has asked, “What’s for dinner?” That’s why it’s good to have a KFB. She never sighs and is always looking for a little scratch. Plus, she doesn’t care if I dribble on the bathroom floor or if I'm perpetually perplexed about dinner. What’s the old joke—If only I could be the person my dog thinks I am.
So when I’m not making my wife sigh or watching Josh Allen clips or pecking away at my laptop and I’m sitting at the end of the couch looking out the window I feel this peaceful kind of nothingness. It’s like I’m a kid again kid sitting on the front steps of my house watching the world go by—seeing neighbors driving or walking down the street or maybe Mr. Bausch from across the way watering his lawn. Sometimes a friend might come by and sit on the steps with me. We’d probably talk about something for a bit—maybe baseball or if it’s the summer of 1972, we might be talking about the Watergate Hearings—that Martha Mitchell was a hoot. But really, there wouldn’t be much to say because you’re a kid after all and you don’t know much about anything, even if you play baseball or are watching the Watergate Hearings. Eventually we’d end up sitting there saying and doing nothing.
Lao Tzu in the “Tao Te Ching,” challenges people to balance all of the something they’re constantly up to by also learning to embrace the nothing. “When nothing is done, nothing is left undone.” That is some pretty clever doublespeak by Lao Tzu—even more clever than naming a millipede after Taylor Swift. Still, I take the point. We spend all this time scrolling, watching and listening to the unpleasantness about inflation, the insurrection and the endless mass shootings and not much time doing nothing. When I’m sitting on the end of the couch looking out the window it’s so wonderfully dull. All I see is a small bit of our yard, which has a Rose of Sharon and some daylilies butting up against the fence at the back of our property. From there it’s over the neighbor’s fence and garage and into the driveway of another neighbor where a white SUV sits. It’s just a static little nothing picture. Sure the garbage trucks rumble down the street weekly and in winter there’s snow plows and occasionally I’ll see the neighbor who owns the white SUV talking to someone in the driveway, but most of the time it’s a whole lot of nothing.
So to get relief from the unpleasantness that comes with scrolling, watching and listening, I’ve made this a banner year for looking out the window into the peaceful nothingness. Thoreau had a little cabin where he considered Walden Pond and I have a window at the back of my house where I consider my wonderfully dull yard and that of my neighbors.
I should note, looking out this window when the fall comes will probably no longer produce this euphoric detachment and emptiness and instead will turn into anger and dread as I face up to a considerable amount of raking and clean-up I’m going to have to do when the leaves hit the ground.