Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Neighborhood Watch


As a full-time wheelchair user, and someone who no longer works, I spend the better part of each day indoors, by myself. It’s not so bad, however, because I live in a glass house.

Two sides of my living room are nothing but windows—an observatory of sorts. When my eyes are not glued to my computer screen writing, reading, corresponding, researching, or watching Netflix, I’m gazing out my windows, and I love what I see.


A couple of days ago, a flock of small, genetically identical, dark brown birds with white spots descended upon my lawn. Probably 200 of them. I suppose half were male and the other half female, but they all looked the same to me (is that racism, sexism, speciesism?). I didn’t recognize their classification, and I couldn’t find it on the internet. They moved about independently, randomly, at a frantic pace, feeding on invisible morsels between my blades of grass. Everything in their world occurred at hyper-speeds, a blur to our human senses.

Each time one bird violated the personal space of another, a brief confrontation ensued. Wings flapped, and some unknowable set of rules determined the winner. The victor held his ground while the vanquished was excommunicated to another part of the lawn.

Every so often, however, some outside force, something they saw or something they heard, caused every member of the flock to abandon their self-interests. They stopped feeding and squabbling, oriented themselves all in the same direction, and took flight like mindless cogs in a larger machine. They so loved the morsels in my grass, however, that after a few minutes they flittering back and once again filled the space with a buzz of random, independent activity, until the next common danger united them in flight. 

There are few analogues for this behavior in the human world. Once people start acting independently, we are loath to come together for the common good without first engaging in considerable debate, arm-twisting, and deal making. Yet here we sit at the top of the food chain…for now.

But I digress.

People Watching

Sitting in my wheelchair, peering out my windows, I’m also treated to some top-notch people watching. My neighbors Sue, Susan, and Kri walk their dogs (Jake, Rocko, and Sadie) several times a day. It’s not only dog walkers, though. All sorts of people wander down our street. Sometimes I recognize them from the larger neighborhood. Most of the time I don’t. They come in all sizes and shapes: young and pretty, old and weathered, athletic, disabled, and everything in between. Why this parade by my window? There’s an attraction at the end of my street—the Atlantic Ocean.


Animals and people are fascinating, but unreliable. The scenery outside my house—it never disappoints. The six-foot-tall window immediately to the right of my computer screen may as well be a work of art, a painting. The lower two feet of this masterpiece depicts my front yard, the street, and my neighbor’s front yard. This is where the strange flock of birds did their thing. This is where my neighbors walk their dogs and take their constitutionals. This is where the snow piles up.

If I raise my head just slightly, I take in the next foot or so of this artwork—the ocean at the end of my street. Our corner of the Atlantic is a shallow cove, so much so that at low tide it empties and becomes a mud flat, which has a certain appeal, but it’s not as visually pleasing as the cove at high tide. Something about a basin full of water, it calls to me. When I know visitors are coming to my house, I hope for a higher than average tide. I’m pleased with the result about half the time.

Still higher in the portrait, the next foot captures the opposite shore of the cove. A well-maintained walking/biking path runs along that piece of coastline. As I watch folks make their way along this Greenbelt, I am quite certain that nobody is using it because they must, but rather because they choose to. People follow this path for the journey itself, not because they need to be anywhere in particular along its route.

And finally, the upper two feet of my window painting is filled with sky. It’s almost never the same day-to-day or minute-to-minute. I face east, so I’m treated to sunrises and often moon rises. Even though the sun sets on the opposite side of my property, it blankets my view with a soothing glow on most evenings.

So yes, I am stuck in the house, especially in the winter, but I have plenty to watch in my neighborhood, and for this I am grateful. Everyone should be so lucky.


  1. I too enjoy the wildlife in my backyard, and the parade of humanity and dogs out the front window. Being disabled is not boring when you find ways to be entertained.

    1. Wow Mitch ____ Are these pictures the actual views you see from your windows? They are gorgeous. I imagine you are the photographer? These are some nice photo shoots.
      My window view sees alot of squirrels in our feeder. They are pretty entertaining.
      Now we're seeing snow, snow, snow.

    2. These are either the views from my window, or someone has gone down the street a bit to get a better photo. No, I can't manage a camera, not even a camera on my cell phone. Most of these pictures were taken by my talented daughter. We just got our first measurable snow this morning, but nothing like what you folks have been getting in Ohio.

    3. Your daughter is talented indeed!