Volume One Special Coverage: Pulling Together While Staying Apart


It’s a Yard Knock Life

as spring arrives, frozen shame begins to thaw

Mike Paulus, illustrated by Ian Kloster

Huzzah. Spring is all but here. The snow will soon be gone. And like most of you, I long for warmer weather. I can’t wait to slip on my very masculine sandals, and the prospect of busting out the two pairs of shorts I will actually wear has me feeling considerably giddy. I yearn to see the gossamer buds upon the trees and bathe in the sweet aroma of Mother Nature as she awakens from her frosty slumber.

The fine people who previously owned our house had cultivated a magnificent crop of grass, as thick and lush as my beautiful head of hair. It took me about a week to completely destroy all their hard work. 

To put it simply, I am exploding with springtime joy.

That said, life sucks. As the snow recedes, it reveals the craphole I affectionately refer to as “my yard.” The grass is long and shaggy, and it’s plastered with a soggy, brownish-blackish layer of leaves I didn’t rake up last fall. It’s like running into an old friend – an obnoxious, embarrassing, loud, smelly friend who swears in pubic while chewing beef jerky, wears unironic wolf T-shirts, and is soaked from head to toe in freshly-melted snow. That pitiful friend just got evicted, so you invite him to stay at your place, and he pitches a tent on your front lawn.

As if the “old friend” comparison wasn’t explanatory enough, allow me to continue explaining. Seeing my crappy, neglected lawn emerge from the snow is kind of like realizing you didn’t hide the body very well after that murder you committed last October. I’ve never actually killed anyone, so I can’t say for sure, but I bet seeing your victim again and reliving your crime would be somewhat traumatic. 

It’s like this: You’re walking through the house on a Sunday morning, groggily scratching  your armpit, when you open the front door to snatch up the Sunday paper, and – BAM – there’s that dead body! Oh man, you had completely forgotten about it! You had started to bury the corpse late last fall, but then you left town for a few days (cousin’s wedding), and then, you know, the holidays started up, and the snow came, and what can you say? You got busy, man. It’s a crazy time of year.

But there it is. Dead. Gross. Visible.

I guess the disappearing snow has revealed something more than dumb metaphors. It has also exposed my shame. My lawn didn’t always look so bad. The fine people who previously owned our house had cultivated a magnificent crop of grass, as thick and lush as my beautiful head of hair. It took me about a week to completely destroy all their hard work. I could barely keep this thing mowed, let alone watered and naturally fertilized. The weeds took over in late summer, and the brown patches expanded into brown continents. They have their own trade restrictions and border patrol.

I never wanted to be someone who was worried about what his neighbors might think about his yard, but I guess on some level, I am. Sort of. What does a crappy lawn say about me? Should I care about the impression it leaves? Is it a subconscious extension of who I am, and should I use it has an indicator of my psychological wellness? Is my psyche full of sloppy, decaying crud? Should I keep up with the Joneses’ yard as a method of self-improvement? 

These are excellent, well-worded questions. I believe the answers are “very little,” “no,” “perhaps,” “doubtful,” and “of course not.”

If any of YouTube’s motivational speakers can be believed, shame is not something to cling to. But if something makes you unhappy, you should do something about it. Sometimes this simply involves chilling out. Sometimes this involves a rake and some work gloves. And sometimes this involves writing 611 words about it.

Lasker Jewelers
Lasker Jewelers

Pulling Together Partners

The following organizations are currently supporting Volume One’s work in the community during the pandemic:

Lasker Jewelers

L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library, Eau Claire

Downtown Eau Claire Inc DECI

University of Wisconsin Eau Claire

Pablo Group

Wisconsin Independent Network

Middle West Management

Bon Iver

Royal Credit Union

Silver Spring

Evergreen Surgical

Charter Bank

The Murty Henriksen Family

The Larry and Marie Past Family

The Dan and Kerry Kincaid Family

Anton and Rae Schilling-Smets

Brady and Jeanne Foust

If your organization is interested in supporting Volume One during this difficult time, nick@volumeone.orgcontact us.