I had this planned over the past several summers, always finding a good reason to put it off. Well, maybe not a good reason. Any excuse would do.
I hate painting. Staining the deck is very low on that list of things I should and need to do. Right above coating the driveway with tar oil. That's at the very bottom.
That is also next on my list of things I must do this year.
Like all things I put off, once they are complete, I stand proudly over them, beat my chest, and gloat over the accomplishment.
"Perfect!" I said. "Now, all I have to do is keep the dogs off of it." I went about setting up barriers, using old fence, deck chairs, planters, and anything I could find. I directed the dogs out the back door so as to avoid footprints both on the oil paint and our carpet.
It worked perfectly. Just before retreating to the house and to a much-needed shower, I took one last look at this fine work of art.
"What is that?" I said. "Where did that come from?"
Clearly marked and evenly spaced across the entire area, I found tiny marks running in straight lines and inexplicably in circles.
Making my way tucked close to the house, I carefully stepped to the very edge of the deck closest to our flower garden. It was there I found several of the small markings. Upon closer observation I discovered that these were indeed footprints.
"I can't believe it!" I whispered. "What can I do now?"
In my frustration, my foot slipped and I was now standing on the freshly stained decked. I crouched down in disbelief and sighed. I was baffled by it all because I thought I planned for all the possibilities of the human and animal size, never considering the fact that my yard is inhabited by creatures as small as this.
Now, almost frozen in place by this stunning discovery, I remained in position so as to prevent further damaging my work. Just then, off to my left, it appeared. The culprit! The menace of my masterpiece. The graffiti artist responsible for this act. A chipmunk.
He was as stunned as I was. We stood there face to face looking at each other, wondering who would make the first move. "How could you?" I said. He didn't blink an eye. (I'm not really sure if chipmunks blink.) It was like the scene from "High Noon," where two men standing on Main Street wait to see who draws first.
He actually sat down. He's teasing me, taunting me now. The warm, humid air was now getting the best of me. Sweat that once easily soaked into my hair, now ran freely over my bald spot and into my eyes. I reached up to rub them and when I opened my eyes again he was gone.
I won the standoff! He ran first.
My legs now cramped, my body soaked, my spirit crushed, I looked around for something, one thing positive in all of this. My only satisfaction was in thinking that when he returned home he tracked oily footprints into his own home. And, hoping he was married, his wife would not let him live it down for the rest of his life.
Suddenly, I heard the leaves on the two tall trees nearby begin to rustle. I looked off to my left where I came face to face with my enemy. Out of nowhere, at the urging of the wind, a small bunch of daisies had shown their faces, retreating on and off until a smile came to my face.
In comparison to all the woes of the world, this deserves no more stress or acknowledgment. I did build all of this to make my yard more beautiful and for the enjoyment of family and friends. I do count among those friends all God’s creatures great and small who bring joy to my life simply by showing up.
I stood up, shook my head, and, laughing about it all, I walked into my house. Yes, I tracked oil on the carpet. I am married. My wife will not let me live it down for the rest of my life. But I stared down a chipmunk at high noon.