Living on the Edge of Civilization

A little after 5 o'clock and I'm leaving the office building hell that surrounds O'Hare airport for the 50 mile commute home. Luckily 98 percent of the drive is all highway driving. Unluckily there are still far too many people on earth that will never grasp the concept of highways. Why they insist on even trying to drive on a highway will always remain a mystery.

If it weren't for the clueless, my drive home would be almost a half hour shorter. One can only wish to see that happen in their lifetime.

Dinner was ready when I got home. Afterward the dishes get done, get some laundry going and from behind me I hear...

"Want to go for a walk?"

A glance at the clock and it's only 7:10, a good hour and a half of daylight left.

Five minutes later we're at Silver Springs State Park.

For my first 35 years I never lived outside of the Chicago city limits. Now fifty miles isn't far enough away, but I'm still shackled to the Chicago job market. Where I live is the limit for traveling east. Until something resembling a job opens up even further south or west, this is where I'll stay put for awhile.

Out here, as soon as I get out of my car in front of the house, it's quiet. We have bugs and birds, but none of the incessant drone that you hear all the time in the city. On breaks at work I hang around outside. The noise is never ending, a constant from land and sky. Once upon a time I'd have to say I never noticed it. Now I find it barely tolerable.

Five minutes west to the park and it gets even quieter, if that's possible. Rustling trees in the wind, the splash of a fish on the water's surface, a great horned owl off in the woods somewhere echoes in this little valley. You can feel you're heart rate drop to something normal.

So far this year there have been a few disappointments on our walks. We normally go to collect monarch caterpillars and blackberries. This year their are few of each. The giant patch of blackberries where we collected a few gallons of berries last year is completely devoid of fruit. The vines are all in place, they are simply empty.

By this time last year we had collected around 70 monarch caterpillars. We were able to raise almost 50 of them to butterfly stage. So far this year we've struggled to find about a dozen of them. We're not seeing many flying around this year either.

My wife tried to compensate for the lack of caterpillars by picking up nearly 100 small furry ones.

They were all bunched together so it was an easy thing to do. They turned out to be little eating/shitting machines. She was constantly feeding them ever more milkweed leaves and they quickly filled the bottom of the container with shit.

She looked up what they would turn into and it turns out to be a simple, plain, brown moth. She was disappointed.

They are now all in my neighbors yard devouring his hosta plants.

The other critters don't seem to have been as effected by the weather as the monarchs. There is no shortage of other butterflies.

The big yellow spiders are more numerous than we remember. She's blaming the spiders for the lack of monarch caterpillars, but that's only because she's severely arachnophobic.

The grasshopper population is already starting to die off. Far fewer of them seen than just a couple of weeks ago. What few are left are hanging on for dear life.

This freelance job near O'Hare has the possibility of going on indefinitely. My wife and I talked about moving further north and east to cut down on my commute. 100 miles a day and over $100 a week in gas can wear on you. The trade off is to abandon living on the edge of civilization.

We think we may have reached a compromise.

As soon as it can be afforded, I'll be getting a car that gets better gas mileage.

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  • Get a Prius. You look like a Prius guy.

  • I like those little Fiat's, but hardly what I call a fishing car. I like the Jeep Liberty, the new model and the Honda Element.

    You have a Prius, don't you Mr. Engineer?

  • If I had a Prius what the hell would I pull my boat with?

    Stay away from the Liberty. I can get you a good deal on a Honda. They run like tops.

    I'm not an Engineer..... yet.

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