Archive for July, 2010


I took a short break to sit outside today.
Ingrid and I have a nice patio and backyard; I’ve always appreciated it.  It’s provides a peaceful view of green grass, hedges, and another nice condo across the way.  There’s also the hedgeline about 15 feet from our patio, designed to protect privacy just enough while seeming natural and wild.
We also had Dish Network satellite service.  The dish sat on our patio pointed up at very specific and technically coordinated degrees, to catch the signals of several satellites at one time.  We loved Dish Network.  The programming and customer service were equally great, and we got one channel that we specifically thought we couldn’t live without: it carried our favorite open wheel racing.
One day about five years ago, we noticed a very small bush begin to poke its head out from the hedgerow.  It looked like some kind of nuisance, perhaps even a weed or ivy, but we ignored it.  After a time, it began to become a bigger bush.  Eventually, we thought to ourselves, "is that a tree?"  Because this thing was taking shape a bit like a little dwarf tree with a tiny trunk.  But we ignored this also.
Things got very busy.  We really forgot all about the bush-thing, because both of us were out of the house working and traveling more 14 hours a day or more.  When we did get home, we collapsed and watched some of our beloved Dish Network.
At a certain point, our Dish Network service began to get more unreliable, but the signal would usually come back on its own.  At first, I actually remembered a procedure that involved adjusting the dish: one turns up the TV volume, goes outside, and adjusts the dish until they hear a certain tone from the TV.  So I would do this when the signal presented problems: listen for the tone in the house, and successfully adjust the dish. 
This was in late winter.  One time while adjusting the dish, I even noted that the earlier bush was definitely a small tree-ish thing, but a bare one, and I pointed this out to Ingrid.
Finally, a summer weekend came along with a very, very important open wheel race.  I had to actually write an article on this open wheel race, so I was eager not to miss it.  But, when I tuned in early, the satellite signal was completely gone.  I followed the normal procedure, going outside and listening for the tone.  Nothing.  One more time, I went outside, and followed the line of sight of the dish.  And I realized that the bush, the once-small and bare tree, was now an actual tree: just tall enough, and just wide enough, to impair our signal.  I ran to a local sports bar and saw my race.
Then, I called Dish Network and asked them to take a look.  They did their best, and suggested moving my dish to a neighbor’s yard; we refused.  The technican pointed out that the tree was completely preventing the signal, and that we couldn’t get a signal from any one of the satellites that were available.  I really, really didn’t like that tree.  When I called Dish Network to formally cancel my service, and talked to the wonderful person who told me she couldn’t wait to have me back if anything changed, I disliked the tree even more.
I mentioned this to some friends, and they suggested that there were some bugs that could eat the tree and cause its natural death; one of them even suggested poisoning the tree with some chemicals.  I declined, because the tree was on condo property, not mine.
Even busier years passed by like a flash, and I heard a mention of a great new TV, Internet, and phone service from AT&T, all of which worked on wires carrying a digital signal.  But we couldn’t get it in our neighborhood.  Then, one day, I received an email telling me it was possible to get this "AT&T U-verse."  I would save money over my current services, and enjoy quality and features I couldn’t believe.  I invited AT&T out to my condo, and the best television service Ingrid or I could imagine was now ours.  It changed the way we recorded TV, perfect for our busy lives; and we could pause live television.  And we could get the channel that carried our open wheel races.
When our office shut down, I began to work at home.  And I began to enjoy sitting outside.  After a few weeks of doing this, I realized that the tree was now really attractive: quite tall, quite "filled out," and with a nice bark that was neither smooth nor rough.  One day, on a late Sunday evening after working a long week, I was looking at the tree in the twilight, and I decided to learn its name.  I cut one of the leaves, and spent an hour looking for a picture of the same leaf on the Internet.  I couldn’t find it, until I eventually saw a website of sketched silhouettes of leaves, rather than pictures.  Here, I found that the tree was a Quercus Nigra; a water oak.  Nowhere near the water in our backyard.
I have since searched our condo and our neighborhood for any other water oaks, and I have found one.  It is at Avondale Lake.  I was happy when I found it, because I recognized the very characteristic leaf.  And I learned what the backyard tree would eventually look like: strong, wide, tall, stately, proud, and wise.
I took a short break to sit outside today.  During that time, I realized that the bush had become our tree.  I call it that all the time.  My favorite animals, squirrels, live in it.  And they visit our porch and eat nuts that we share.  Some beautiful and talkative birds live in it.  The Internet told me that Quercus Nigra provides shelter for many types of animals, and that its own acorns provide food for more than one species.
From the thing I ignored, to a large bush, to a small, bare tree, to a tree I disliked, and then…to our tree, that provides shelter to our squirrels.
And I have the best TV service I could ever want.
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