I first met my wife Marilyn, a Chicago native, at a friend’s Halloween party in the Haight district of San Francisco. We clicked right away and spend the entire evening together. Since Marilyn was only visiting for a few days, I convinced her to extend her stay so we could spend more time together exploring the city and the California coast.
After the extended visit, Marilyn returned to this Chicago home where she lived with her grandmother. Several weeks later, I flew in to The Big Windy for a visit, staying for four snowy, sub-zero days during which we did precious little sightseeing. While we gazed out the window at the frozen snow, Marilyn told me that, hidden in their burrows until spring lived an abundance of black squirrels, and she hoped one day I’d be able to see them.
Last autumn, Marilyn’s grandmother passed away in this home she had owned for 40 years, and now Marilyn’s mom lives in Gram’s house. Marilyn and I, who now live in Sonoma County, visited Chicago recently and stayed in the house with Marilyn’s mom. And after five short days, I became convinced that in Chicago, squirrels outnumber humans.
Behind the house, a wooden deck provides an excellent view of those busy squirrels, and overlooks a yard where cardinals can often be heard, but rarely seen. The deck is surrounded by a colorful flower garden, where in the evenings, solar lights in whimsical shapes give off an inviting glow.
One afternoon, I carried a dining room chair to the front of the house to stake out a sketching spot. The air grew heavy with humidity as I drew, subsiding precious little in the fading afternoon. Cicada insects buzzed in crescendoing waves, louder than I ever imagined they could, then faded to silence.
The squirrels kept their distance, showing no interest in my drawing, but several groups of people were intrigued, including a woman and her daughter, a budding artist. I was happy to talk about my sketch of Gram’s house and to let the young girl know that sketching is all about having fun while learning.