A morning walk in the neighborhood mid-Spring. The angle of the sun is gentle, the air scented with blossoming things. Each step is riddled with many causes for quiet delight. Sometimes these ambulations are walking conversations. Dialogs carried by moving feet. But today is one of those days when we are each walking with our own thoughts, in companionable silence, only occasionally making little observations, or stopping to point something out to the other. V is sporting a stonewashed red linen shirt, a wrinkly pair of slacks (in these years of Zoom meetings, only the top half of his wardrobe ever gets ironed) and his usual sweet smile. I’m wearing a wide brimmed straw hat, a teal kurti, with yoga pants, and an orb of deep red kumkum between my brows. As we loop back around Semeria Park, an older woman with a bright red helmet of hair and two very fluffy dogs catches sight of us. I remember my kumkum and wonder for a fleeting moment if she will find my obvious foreignness off-putting. I don’t know why this sort of thought pops up for me at times. I have always felt at home in these hills, on these streets. It is not an undiverse area, and I’ve never experienced unfriendliness here. I’m not looking for external signs of welcome, but for some reason I still catch myself idly wondering on occasion if my difference is a divider of sorts. As we cross the woman and her dogs, she stops and looks directly at us.
“What a handsome couple you are!” she exclaims. “Thank you,” my husband says laughing, adding cheerily, “Enjoy your day!” I look up at him — he is a handsome fellow. There is such a robust glow to him despite the deep-seated, mysterious health condition he is navigating. We do not break our stride and I find myself completely tongue tied. My brain is apparently unable to process in real-time the unexpectedness of a warm compliment where it had subconsciously anticipated a silent rebuff. As we continue walking I feel a particular kind of joy bubbling up in me– it stems from the pleasurable feeling of having an unspoken cynical assumption of one’s own proven wrong by the world. It makes me want to skip like a child, and wish I’d had the presence of mind to tell the woman how beautiful her dogs are.
The finches are building their annual nest under the eaves of the mudroom. We see them flying back and forth, occasionally stopping to take stock of their progress with cocked heads. A couple of days ago a large crow perched on the edge of the roof and attempted to peer into the nest. When they are not attempting break-ins, or cradle robberies, I love crows. In that moment how villainous this one looked, with his hulking, oddly-angled shoulders, his merciless beak. I rapped on the window sharply and called out, “Hey!” His head briefly turned in my direction, before he spread his wings and removed himself to the safe distance of the telephone wire across the street. From there he continued to look nestwards. This would not do. I got up and made my way to the top of the steps outside our front door. “Hey,” I said loudly and sternly, “Do not, I repeat, do not bother those babies.” I am going to assume this wayward crow registered the command, because he took off towards the roof of the house behind him. Hopefully there were no nests for him to terrorize there. When I went back inside my husband said with a twinkle, “Make sure you talk to him nicely, you don’t want them turning against us.” We’ve heard stories of how unwise it can be to make enemies of the crows. They are known to be able to put people in their places. If they decide you have a disagreeable disposition and do not belong in your current home, they have been known to mobilize their ranks to convince you to move. At which point you might need to recruit a Crow Whisperer to broker a reconciliation. Personally, I don’t think they will hold a sharp-tongued scolding on behalf of the finches, against me. I think that sort of thing only makes them shrug their glossy shoulders and decide whatever nefarious act they were plotting is no longer worth the trouble. It would take something more egregious to invoke their wrath. This week among my other tasks, I will operate as the self-appointed guardian of the finches nest.
On Sunday we visit the San Carlos Farmer’s Market for the first time in many years. The whole scene lifts my heart, the festiveness of the streets the live music, the colorful stalls heaped with produce, gourmet baked goods, exquisite flowers, artisanal wares, the food trucks emanating tantalizing aromas, and so many people milling about, enjoying the sunshine and each other’s company. It has been so long since we have been in the midst of so much human life. We are the only ones still wearing masks and keeping our distance, but no one looks at us strangely. We are on a mission to find organic strawberries.
The stall we pick has a significant line that inspires confidence (warranted or not) in the worthiness of the wares. I take my place in it and wait my turn. There is only one young man doing all the selling. He is dark-haired, bright-eyed, confident and full of information about the different strawberry varieties they are selling. Sweet Ann (large, pale and sweet), Monterey (large, dark red and sweet), Albion (slightly smaller, red and sweet). All three look spectacular to me. It is hard to be a berry, in my book, and not. While the strawberry man is talking, his hands are doling out free strawberry samples to prospective customers, their children, their spouses, their best friends and whoever happens to be standing next to them. One little boy asks for repeated seconds and scores them. Be sure to tell everyone how sweet they are, says the Strawberry Man. He gives away a rather remarkable number of strawberries in this way. And though he does not offer me a sample (I assume it is because I am wearing a mask) and though he does not slip extra handfuls of berries into my baskets the way he did with the two customers ahead of me, I find myself appreciating his way.
I want to be that kind of person in the world when I grow up. The kind who keeps no accounts, while casually slipping sweetness into the lives of all the people who come her way.
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