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Meadow Oasis

Serene evenings at a vacant lot given over to nature leave the author grounded and grateful

Illustration by Andrea Cobb

James carries the lawn chairs. I follow behind with Prima, a sweet calico who claimed us not long after we buried our last elderly cat. Behind a low cedar-post fence, we unfold our chairs and plop down. Prima chooses a lap and nestles into a comfortable position.

Overhead, cedar waxwings fly across the open sky followed by some black-bellied whistling-ducks and a lone white-winged dove. With our feet propped up on the fence, we breathe in the evening air and gaze at what we call the Meadow, our adjoining vacant lot turned nature preserve.

Our evening “sits” in the Meadow go back more than a decade. Through the years, we’ve observed change, loss and rejuvenation. One spring, prairie verbena laid a purple carpet across the property. That show has yet to be repeated. Another year, stiff greenthreads bloomed in golden profusion—until coreopsis leaf beetles decimated their foliage. And we still talk about the Malta starthistle that grew in thick clumps along the street—then I learned we were hosting a nasty invasive. Garbage bags later, we finally eradicated the species. Gray vervain, fleabane, silverleaf nightshade and other natives grow there now.

This evening, we admire the abundant bluebonnets that grace our corner lot. Sulphurs, honeybees and an occasional white-lined sphinx moth flit among the blue flower heads. From our chairs, we wave at a couple walking their dog. Chat with a father who has brought his toddler son to see the wildflowers. Holler greetings at a nearby neighbor who tells us how much she loves her view of the Meadow.

It could be just another evening in our neighborhood. Only it’s not. Because a global pandemic keeps us apart. We must social distance and share air hugs.

Prima yawns and jumps down to nibble grass. James tracks a miniscule jet across the darkening sky. I lean over to watch a wolf spider scuttle through the grass. Virus or no virus, our sits in the Meadow keep us grounded and grateful. Our time there reminds us that we, too, as human beings, will always experience change, loss and rejuvenation. Like our vacant lot turned nature preserve, we will adapt and move on. That’s the cycle of life.