An intellectual exercise to start things off today: Anyone care to guess what NN.C community member and DePaul University professor Ashley Morris’ homeowners’ insurance bill is this year? Take a moment before you peek, and really think about it. Ashley lives in New Orleans, sure, although if I recall correctly, I don’t think his house was flooded post-K. (Yes, it’s true — the entire city is not below sea level, as NOLA-hatas like to say.) I’m guessing even your highest guess will be dwarfed by reality, so go ahead and look.
Amazing, isn’t it?
For the record, I think the last check I wrote to State Farm for the usual coverage was for around $575. And my agent apologized because I had to carry more liability than those in adjacent counties, because Wayne County jurors have a history of stickin’ it to the man in civil cases.
As for Ashley, and New Orleans, this is how a city dies. Not in one fell swoop, but from a lot of little players each doing their part to make life there impossible. The rest of you who live in high-potential-disaster areas — California, coastal Florida — what do you pay?
Alan went to the lake Sunday to solve our Shrub Problem*, and discovered we have a Groundhog Problem. Our tiny homemade cottage sits not on a slab but on smaller supports, and over time we’ve had a variety of animals trying to make our floor their roof. Most of these can be banished with rude treatment and some chicken wire, but evidently Mr. G. has already done some major excavation. This will call for, at very least, a trap, and potentially firearms. The plan of attack was outlined for me today: First the humane trap, followed by a release “a minimum of five miles away,” and then, if that doesn’t work, Alan’s dad’s .22 rifle.
“Do you even know how to fire it?” I asked.
“Yeah,” he said, sheepishly. “But I had to look up some instructions to figure out how to load it.” And with this ol’ Dead Eye Derringer is going to kill a groundhog. I’m further advised this weapon is “from the ’30s, I think,” a “really nice rifle” and “has one of those cowboy lever-action things.” I can’t wait.
Let’s hope the trap works. I’m reminded of our old neighbor Patrick, who had a raccoon living in his attic. He trapped it, and took it to the park at the end of our street to release it. He then re-set the trap, just in case there were two. The following night, the same raccoon (raccoon with identical scars, anyway) turned up in it again. This time he took it several miles away to a rural area. It took the animal three days to find his home base again. The third time he took it to an adjacent county, and it finally stayed away. I suspect it was run over by a car on its journey home.
True to form, Alan has exhaustively researched groundhog bait preferences. I was told today to shop for cantaloupe, which we will then drench in vanilla extract. Then we made groundhog faces at one another. This will be fun.
*The Shrub Problem: When Kate was a baby, Alan planted a row of boxwood bushes in front of the cottage. They were about shin-high. Now, years later, they’ve been so thoroughly gnawed on by deer they’re now ankle-high, and I’m not kidding. Actually they’re now on their way to a compost heap, because they’ve been replaced by a row of hardy Canadian rosebushes, with lots of thorns. We shall see.
Perhaps because I have not fired a gun at a living thing in my lifetime, a loving God has smiled on me today, and given us all a new Tim Goeglein column to laugh and point at:
This has been a landmark summer in our family. My parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. Another aunt and uncle celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. Two other aunts and uncles celebrated their 60th wedding anniversaries. One of my aunts celebrated her 75th birthday. They all live in Allen County; they were, with one exception, all born in Allen County; they were all married in Allen County. Landmarks like these make cities and counties thrive.
The juxtaposition of fading summer against the permanence of those landmarks is remarkable to ponder. Some of my favorite quotes about summertime point up the contrast luminously.
Wow. Most people get over this sort of pondering when they finally set aside their bongs: You mean, in my fingernail, there could be, like, a whole universe? And our whole universe could be, like, in the fingernail of something even bigger? Actually, I’m disappointed in Tim today. He goes to his parents’ anniversary party, mines Bartlett’s, and phones it all in:
It did not hurt things to know that the beauty of the weather combined to make it a special day. “What a beautiful, sunny morning,” wrote Takayuki Ikkaku. “It makes you happy to be alive, doesn’t it? We can’t let the sun outshine us. We have to beam, too!” It was a glory to see my parents so radiant on that day, surrounded by their children, grandchildren, siblings and friends of long standing. “The summer,” wrote the poet Wallace Stevens, “is like a perfection of thought.” All of us kept thinking what a remarkable occasion it all was across four generations and every part of the United States.
Yes, you should not be surprised to learn that the Lord sent his finest weather for Tim’s parents’ party. Nor should you have any doubt that the party was simply wonderful, and went off without a hitch:
I keep thinking about those five hours of my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary party when all the people they love so deeply gathered to eat, drink, dance, talk, laugh and catch up. Henry James wrote: “Summer afternoon . . . the two most beautiful words in the English language.” How right he was. That afternoon gathering could have gone on for hours; it was a pastiche of civility and kindness; of old memories and old friendships; and, most important, of the tenderness that humans have for one another on golden anniversaries.
The tenderness of golden anniversaries? Yes, as opposed to the brutality they show one another on the silver ones, I suppose.
Oh, you can wade through the muck yourselves, if you want.
But I wouldn’t waste your time. It’s a lovely day, and I’m headed out to enjoy it.