Saturday, July 16, 2011

A Four By Six View From My “Shanty”

God Himself could not design a view that would fulfill the requirements of my ideal vista. Well, I must revise that; He actually has done so but not all in one place. My ideal is a composite made up of all the beautiful scenes I’ve encountered through my lifetime. But one cannot have it all, at least not all at one time – in one place. So I’ve coined the term “Shanty” to characterize the many different scenes I would like to combine into my ideal place.

I grew up in “Shanty” – literally a simple, crudely built structure – and have never lost my love of it. It keeps popping up in my life and never fails to bring comfort when it does. I used to show my history classes an old black and white, sixteen millimeter movie film, depicting scenes from the Great Depression. One of the scenes in the film was shot from inside a mountain cabin during a rainstorm. The impoverished farmer who lived there stood helplessly on the porch of the cabin watching the water pour over the edge of the roof and out onto his land, carrying away his valuable soil and with it his hopes for himself and his family.

As a civic-minded Social Studies teacher I should have been most moved by the farmer’s plight, and, to my credit, I did attempt to impress students with the importance of the work of the Tennessee Valley Authority in teaching such farmers improved farming methods and helping them adopt soil erosion abatement programs. But what I loved about the film – which kept me showing it long after it ceased to run smoothly through the projector – was the raw splendor of the scene, even in black and white. The rugged beauty of the farmer’s weathered and wizened face, the deceptive power of the rain water flowing off the eaves of the cabin, the seemingly eternal strength and endurance of the land despite all that man and nature could do to it, left an enduring image on my mind and imagination. That “Shanty” – undoubtedly equipped with a fireplace or some other simple source of heat, sparsely populated with simple furniture, and offering a marvelous view of wooded hills and valleys – has become, for me, an ideal place on earth.

I’ve never owned such a place, and seldom visited one either. But I’ve been turning the places where I’ve lived and worked into “Shanty” for most of my life, choosing to see, from whatever window or porch has been given to me, the power and beauty of God’s creation, whether in the flutter of the butterfly’s flight or the flash and crash of a thunderstorm.

My “Shanty” at present is a basement office in an urban condominium. The four by six window looks out under an overhanging deck at a narrow yard stretching a mere 100 feet toward a bus barn. It is all well maintained, but it is neither urban elegance nor awe-inspiring natural flora and fauna. Scruffy oaks and elms and whatnot are finally reaching a height on the far side of the yard that hides the bus barn in summer. Nearer to the deck a pine tree that probably should have been removed during construction, has now grown too big for the space it occupies but now must stay to provide a stopping off place for cardinals and other birds on their way to the neighbor’s feeder. An oak, nearly bare of limbs twelve years ago now provides a canopy of shade over half of our deck. Squirrels, rabbits, and on at least one occasion, deer, have visited the yard in summer and winter. The seasons come and go, painting the scenes I view from my “Shanty” gray on cloudy, rainy days, and dappled gold on sunny ones. The yard wears green all summer and yellow, red, and brown in fall. Winter delights in laying a pristine blanket of white over the yard but she must battle with squirrels and rabbits who seem to delight in leaving their trails of footprints in her snow almost as soon as she finishes spreading it.

Some would call my view a “poor man’s ‘Shanty’”. I won’t argue with that. With only one small window looking out on the world it will never be featured in National Geographic. But enough can be seen from my four by six view to feed a desire for “Shanty.” And if I need more than this view affords I just close my eyes. I can still see the rain pouring over the eaves of a cabin on a wooded hillside somewhere in the Tennessee Valley eighty years ago.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please feel free to leave a comment. Comments are moderated and will appear as soon as possible after posting. Follow these steps:
1. Write your comment
2. Select a profile
(Anonymous or Name works best)
3. Select Preview
4. Sign word verification
5. Select Post Comment