Twenty Minutes Before Dusk
I quit work at 6:15 PM (after logging a lousy fifty bucks of billable work for the entire day) and went for a walk to savor the last 20 minutes of daylight to see what I could see. I hoped the walk would put me in a better frame of mind.
It totally turned my day around! I love the whole seasonal transition thing, and it’s in full swing right now, as we hurtle prematurely into autumn. Last year I made an exhaustive photo study of autumn foliage. This year it's looking like I may be making an exhaustive study of decay and desiccation. Get a load of these spent coneflowers and post-apocalyptic sunflowers!
I never tire of walking my neighborhood. I always see something I’ve never noticed before.
Plus, it’s a chance to talk to my neighbors. I am still always astounded by Portland’s neighborliness. It’s not possible to pass someone on the sidewalk without a friendly “hi” or at least a nod and a smile. It just does not--evidently cannot--happen. More often than not, there is even some affable chit-chat.
While I was looking at this inspiring and still vigorously thriving garden, a woman wandered out on the sidewalk with a bin of recycling. As a born-and-bred Midwesterner I felt I needed to assure her that I was not loitering with intent in front of her garden. I told her (quite sincerely) how much I admired her ability keep her garden looking magnificent when we were well into the fall (my garden looks like puke right now). She thanked me profusely and revealed that she, in fact, works for Portland Nursery. I guess I’m not surprised, I mean, the garden does look like it could only have been created by someone who knows a thing or two about gardening, but I love it that I now have that extra little insight into that garden and the gardener who tends it.
Soon enough it was too dark to take any more photos, but I decided to meander rather than leg it straight for home. That’s another thing. I don’t feel that it’s unsafe to walk my neighborhood alone after dark.
When I was within about half a block of home, I ran into another neighbor—one I see once a year at our “ladies only” neighborhood Christmas party and one whose name I was (and still am) blanking on.
I don’t know her well at all, but she’s one of those people who assumes that somewhere along the line I’ve been filled in on the whole backstory of her life. As soon as she saw me, she was off and running with a recent saga about Chomper’s (her dog) torn ligament. He seemed fine to me as I tossed and tossed the stick he brought to me (until he chomped it to teensy untossable bits).
From the tale of Chomper she moved on to an account of her teenage son and his four friends and the task of keeping them all on the straight and narrow. She mentioned each of the friends by name and designated each as a “good kid,” stated with genuine affection. It seems she and her husband have sort of taken these four additional boys under their wing.
As if on cue, her husband (who coaches the boys at football) pulled up and the boys (a surprisingly multicultural crew) piled out of the car, all still wearing those weird shiny padded football knickers. With one eye on me and one maternally slanted toward the boys, What’s-Her-Name momentarily broke off her conversation with me to holler (quite a full-throated holler) that there was a tuna-noodle casserole in the oven. Tuna-noodle casserole! A second later, as they were about to enter the house she reminded them (at the top of her lungs), “Shoes Off!!!!!!!!!!!” Then she looked at me and rolled her eyes, presuming that this was something I could totally relate to.
But it isn’t. It is very far away from my own experience and lifestyle. I’d never in a million years volunteer to be a “second mom” to four teenage boys. Heck, I don’t even want to volunteer to be a biological mom to a dainty and well-behaved infant (if such a creature were to exist). But it’s amazing to me that there are people like What’s-Her-Name who take on what seems to me to be a tremendous burden. A good soul. She’s about the same age as me, give or take a year or two, with less education, but in many ways she seems a lot older (would I ever make a tuna-noodle casserole?) and wiser. The fact that the boys were home meant it was time to wrap up the rambling, so she hugged me (!) and headed toward the house, calling out, “Take care, Love!” She doesn’t know my name either.