Of absence and fond hearts

Today I walked down to the west meadow in the park where I live as the sun climbed the southern sky.

I stopped to talk to my neighbors Phillip and Melissa.  Phillip had risen at dawn on Saturday to begin building a deck on their tiny house.  I watched its form rise, faster than I would have imagined possible.  Today the sun glinted from their grand south window and reflected from the shiny leaves of the plants staged around the trailer of their house.  The beautiful long boards spanned the entire length, clean and solid.

Melissa came out of the house as I climbed the new stairs.  Phillip fussed around me, warning about splinters as my hand gripped the sturdy rail which Melissa had instructed him to build for her old and gimpy friends.  They stood beside each other, radiant, cityfolk proud  of the life which they have made here in the Delta.  With a decade until retirement lures them to the road, for now they intend to sink their roots in the rich soil of Andrus Island. 

I admired Melissa’s repurposing of their old steps as a little garden.  They laughed and told me that I’d be invited to their deck-warming party. I promised to bring Prosecco. We parted as friends do, with a smile, a wave, and fervent wishes for a good evening.

I walked further, beyond the empty spot where Louis and Helix used to live.  I stood for a moment and thought about the two of them, down in Florida now, on different ocean from the one which occasionally sends a bit of brackish water upriver to our bay.  I imagined Louis, with his lilting French voice and his ready smile, pouring wine for new friends in the park where they’ve landed.  I thought of Helix sitting at his computer with Theo the Beagle at his feet.  I closed my eyes, and nodded, and resumed my journey.

At the far end of the field, I climbed onto the porch of an empty cabin to get a better angle from which to photograph the owl’s nest high above the park.  I drew the lens of my little camera as far out as it can go.  I saw the edge of one owl; the mother, I thought.  Perhaps, next to her, a sleeping baby snuggled.  I snapped a few frames, then made my way down and around to the back to try for a better shot.  The sun framed the height of the owls’ tree, bathing the whole of its leafy expanse in a golden glow.

I stood for a few minutes in the comfort of the afternoon air.   Faces drifted before me; the smiling countenance of my friend from France and his gentle husband; my son in Chicago; my sister as she donned her mask and rolled her suitcase towards the Sacramento Airport last week.  As I moved away from the meadow and started towards my house, my heart constricted.  I do not know if joy flows in stronger currents away from me than in my willing direction.  But if it does, I pray that it carries my abiding affection in the healing waters of its bountiful river to those of whom my heart has grown exceptionally fond.

It’s the eleventh day of the eighty-eighth month of My Year Without Complaining.  Life continues.

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