Purgatory on a hillside

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By Vince Luecke

Not everyone believes in purgatory, that place between heaven and hell where sinners are purged of their wrongdoings.

Though it's been a long time since I sat through a catechism class, Catholics are still taught that purgatory exists and for people like me who harbor more than a few not-yet-atoned-for sins, purgatory sure beats that other place. While the sign over it marks it as a one-way entrance through which people never leave, purgatory isn't a place for all eternity. It's like a busy doctor's office. Eventually your name gets called.

I certainly don't know what purgatory will look or feel like, but after a few hours of trimming an embankment near my house, I wonder if we don't create our own place of purging. If so, purgatory will come with a string trimmer and an endless steep hillside that needs mowing every week.

Sadly, my purgatory exists in this world, the long steep embankment fronting Indiana 545 in New Boston. This is my second summer living "in town" and the job of keeping the hillside looking halfway decent is bearing upon me.

I must have been more eager or had more energy last summer because I trimmed the bank three or four times, a number sufficient to keep it in presentable condition. I've been more negligent this summer but still feel shame when looking at the tall grass growing on my embankment and then staring at the relatively flat yards of the neighbors on the other side of the highway. They keep their lawns well manicured compared to mine. In fact, my side of the road could keep two or three goats in grass for a few weeks.

I made it through about half of the hillside a couple of weeks ago before running out of time and steam. I told myself that I'd finish it the next day, but something must have come up. Now, that area needs trimmed a second time and the rest of the hill looks like a hayfield.

Trimming the area is a chore even on a cool day. But when it's around 90 degrees and muggy, it truly seems like hell. I have to balance myself constantly while trying to stand on the steep bank and being a little top heavy myself doesn't help. A concrete retaining wall about 4 feet high provides me a perch about 9 inches in width on part of the hill, and I feel like a chubby gymnast on a balance beam trying to hold a trimmer without tumbling. That hasn't happened yet, but there have been close calls.

With grit and determination, I'll have the bank mowed in the next week or so. I'll move about slowly for a few days as I nurse aching arms and legs, but I'll feel satisfaction when the job is done. I just hope purgatory's grass doesn't grow too quickly. Knowing my luck, the grim reaper will tell me there aren't any string trimmers. He'll hand me a scythe and point his bony fingers at a grass embankment that seemingly has no end. I wonder how long the lunch hour will be in purgatory.