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  • Last modified 17 days ago (Nov. 30, 2017)

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Another Day in the Country

Cutting corners

© Another Day in the Country

The weather this past weekend was balmy — perfect time to hang Christmas lights.

My sister climbed the ladder over at the Ramona House and I fed long strings of icicle lights to her for the front porch.

“I’m starting here in front,” she said to me. “Not going around that corner this year because that lilac bush is just too big to work around.”

We are beginning to cut corners, conserving our collective energy.

“Thank you Tim,” she said as she hooked a light strand into one cup hook after another on the front porch trim. Tooltime Tim put up those hooks years and years ago for one of our early Christmases after coming to Kansas from California. Those hooks are one of those “gifts that keep on giving.”

It’s already been eight years since Tim died; but he’s been with us in spirit as we’ve decorated every holiday season since.

The next project was my house across the street. The lights were up in a flash across the front of the porch.

“You want to go around the corner toward the back of the house?” Jess asked.

In spite of the cup hooks already in place, I shook my head.

“No, this is enough, for now. Let’s decorate the Charlie Brown Tree out front instead.”

I’m cutting back, cutting corners.

Our decorating frenzy at Christmas is very different now than it was when we first came back to Ramona. In those good old days, we really lit up the prairie, helping anyone in town get their lights up for Christmas. For quite a few years, we decorated the whole length of Main St., stringing cords for blocks.

Eventually we began cutting corners. We just had to! We had only so many resources. The number of participants dwindled.

“Do you guys ever quit?” TTT wanted to know.

The answer, of course, was “We’re cutting back, doing less, enough is enough.”

I don’t like to cut corners but it eventually becomes a necessity.

Every summer I consider cutting back the size of the garden, but it’s hard to do. I always buy too many tomato plants and too many packages of seed. When St. Patrick’s Day comes, I typically plant more rows of potatoes than I planned for and then add an extra row of onions.

This year, my friend Gordon said, “When you plant those taters, remember to wrap them with a little piece of paper towel.”

I gave him a skeptical look. Was this some theory he’d read about in the almanac?

“You don’t want them to get dirt in their eyes,” he laughed.

The potatoes were barely up when I flew to California for spring break. While I was gone, the weather turned cold and they froze.

“That’s it,” I said to myself when I got home. “I’m cutting that corner of the garden off and giving it over to the encroaching grass.”

My sister, who is the Guardian Angel of the Garden when I’m gone, cheered. Finally, I was cutting back.

Our old kitty, Marshmallow, lived for 15 years, which is an eon in cat years. He died this afternoon. He has been my role model for cutting corners as I age.

Once he’d reached maturity he considered it his job to patrol our property on D Street, which then stretched for a city block. When we sold the house where Cousin’s Corner used to be, he cut back. I guess you could call it “cutting corners,” literally.

As he got older, he scaled down his duties even more. Eventually, he stopped insisting that the Statz Cats from across the street stay off the front porch of the Ramona House, but the back porch was still off limits. As he got weaker, it was quite a chore to mark the boundaries.

He persisted until yesterday, when he finally curled up in a sunny spot on the porch. Jess brought out a blanket and made him a nest where he breathed his last. We buried him at the edge of the field where he used to sit for hours like a statue, hunting mice.

We planted tulip bulbs on his grave. They’ll bloom in the spring, reminding us of our dear old pet and how important it is to keep doing all those rituals that bring us joy — even if you have to pare it down a little. We may not be able to light up the prairie, or all of Main St.; but we can brighten our corner on another day in the country.

Last modified Nov. 30, 2017

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