Uphill from Where I Live

July 14, 2009

Vivid parchment buds

Vivid parchment buds

It’s a new universe to me, this daisy chain of houses, vacant lots, and paved neighborhood roads. The blue sky beckons and pulls me up the hill, all lushly pure and bright. Hints of cloud coverIMGP2869 smear over the horizon like dust-covered fingers leaving  fine white smudges over an otherwise-faultless surface.

Nature, of course, curtsies like the elegantly-effervescent lady she is as I ascend a hill shaded by willow and hemlock trees. The dried-paper headdresses of several red poppies swoon in epileptic beauty while the wind puppet master maneuvers them.  And people live and drink in the sun and scents with the kind of enthusiasm that only a glowing yellow orb can bring.

An elderly woIMGP2892man stands in her driveway watering her lawn. Elegant wire-rimmed glasses sit atop her prominent nose, and her long white hair meets in a haphazard bun at the back of her head. A discreet mint-green sundress drapes her scrawny frame, and she looks at me with playful brown eyes as I walk past. Noting the perspiration on my brow, she calls out, “Want me to cool you off?” with kittenish good humor. She likely broke hearts back in the day, and she’s charming enough to almost claim another amidst the pan-frying potency of the late-spring afternoon. 

As the sun wanes I happen upon a small brick house. Shaded ‘neath the driveway is a stout Indonesian man. His shorn head bobs back and forth as he barbecues chicken on a Weber grill in front of him. His two children bleat persistently for food, and he knits his prominent brows in their direction, threatening to deny them dinner if they don’t quieten down. Some sugared marinade mixes with the ambient blossoms that bracket his front yard, and the scent jabs at my nose.

I turn and head back up the hill, ‘neath the shade of a willow tree. A sewer grate burbles and surges in my ear as ferns do a slinky dance in the wind. On the opposite side of the street–shaded by towering conifers–sits a pale blue and white two-story house. A large man stands on the home’s second-story patio, his hands perched authoritatively on the railing.  He’s six-seven if an inch, with skin of reasonably dark mocha tint and broad shoulders. I’m regarded with distrust as he slowly turns around and disappears behind a sliding glass door. I reckon I am the stranger here, and no unassuming smile can change that. 

You can’t take real, natural pictures of people when they see you a lot of the time:  The presence of a camera makes them alter their behavior, and a moment so perfect in your eye becomes stilted, forced. The flora and fauna around them, meantime, never fake smiles; never erect a barrier of detachment or consternation; never take your innocent interest in preserving them on camera at anything but face value; never pose except at the beckon call of wind or rain or one’s own carelessness. So you take pictures.

As for the bipeds, you write them, paint them with a jumble of symbols instead of pixels or film. They’re more real that way.

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