Sunday, June 13, 2010
Sunlight slanted across our path, from west to east, to splash upon the facades of westward-facing houses with windows blinded against it and upon low stone retaining walls that preserved beds planted with foxglove or red hot pokers or dusty miller or strawberries. Some were planted with cucumbers and squash and tomatoes. It was late afternoon on Sunday, one week before the solstice and there was still much daylight left.
We stopped outside the coffee shop at the corner of 35th and Division so our guest could smoke. The shop was closed at that hour, but we sat on the benches outside, some in the sun, some in the shade. I was the sole North American of the group, the one member of the group that ne parlait pas français, and although they did their best to include me, the Africans would often revert. It came easier to them.
Which was fine with me, to tell you the truth. I was enjoying myself just walking and listening, making a bit of an effort at learning, catching a word or a phrase here or there, but mostly just enjoying the music of their language. (Well, one of their languages.)
The razor wire coiled along the top of the fence guarding the home restoration business across the street cast a sharp, negative vibe onto the scene that twitched some vague anxiety within my chest. But to the Africans, it made nothing. In Dakar, in Lomé, in Ouagadougou, businesses and homes have wire or bars guarding them as a rule. I guess I've just been lucky to have spent my life here in Oregon. (Actually, I don't have to guess...)
Somewhere along the way, a Cream-sicle orange and white cat lay sleeping on the sun-warmed walkway of his master's house. Our approach had aroused him from a beautiful dream. In that dream, he had been sleeping on the sun-warmed walkway to his master's house, dreaming that he had been sleeping on the walkway, dreaming. He gave us a mildly annoyed eye blink as we drew near. I regretted that we had disturbed him.
We walked easily. Our hands dangled as we swung our arms. For an instant, I was tickled by the idea that the Universe was winking at me. Buddha cast a blessing from a flower box in an overgrown front yard, laughing as we walked past.
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I have always loved to walk. Now I live in a place with no sidewalks and no destinations without parking lots. Portland is beautiful and any time you spend appreciating something as beautiful is time well spent.
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