“If it would give you peace of mind,” said the nice, young sales rep of the security system company, “Then consider it. But if it would severely change your lifestyle, like making it impossible to eat, then don’t.”
I stood at the chainlink fence, throwing water on the parking median when he happened up.
It sounded like a great deal. The company would install a security system for the mere price of putting a sign on the corner. My homeowner’s insurance would go down. I would only have to pay about 80 bucks a month to stay connected. Just like a phone bill.
“That’s a lot of groceries,” I pondered.
“For you, it might be half that. Especially once your house insurance goes down. It might only cost you a dollar a day.” He was good.
That’s when the fellow on the bicycle rounded the corner and braked.
Without dismounting, he leaned over and broke off a stem of common white yarrow. Then a stem of Penstemon strictus, nice and purple. When he caught sight of us, he pedaled sternly on.
I smiled his way. He didn’t return it. I’m sure he could have used a larger bouquet. I quite wished he’d had the privacy to gather one.
“Nice flowers,” smiled the salesman on the sidewalk as the fellow on the bike stole grimly by.
“Yeah, I made a promise to myself a while back,” I countered the turning wheels in his salesman’s mind. “The street garden is for the neighborhood. Folks can, and they do, pick flowers.”
“Wow, that’s nice,” the young man with the notebook and the dollar signs said with genuine admiration. But I could see his hope fading. She who lets passers by pick flowers she plants, weeds, and waters, is an unlikely candidate for a security system.
“A dollar a day. Not bad,” I gave him. “Even so. Three sixty-five a year: I can think of a lot of things to do with that, and they would all have a lot higher priority.”
No lingering departure. He was off to speak to “other neighbors”.
To say it’s been dry would be a supreme understatement. It’s impossible to predict when, or if, the drought will end this year. Fire feasts on dry grass and pitchy timber across Arizona, New Mexico, and places I know well in Colorado.
Had the tan salesman offered me the security of a monsoon season, I might have bitten. He could have played me like a trout until my senses caught up to me. No such security can be offered by a mere human on a sidewalk, no matter how perfectly chiseled and empathic.
I strummed the spray head at the end of the hose through every cultivated part of the yard. The fellow with the small boxers strode punctually down the walk. I saw him coming and let go the handle. Pleasantries were exchanged, and the fur person named “Maddie” wanted to stop for more, but was urged on.
The rail thin fellow who frames for a living swung up to the curb in his long, white pick up. We nudged incrementally closer to a date to come by for wine in the back yard, accompanied by an opportunity (gladly) to pick my brain about what and how to plant.
One of the first to introduce himself, what seems like aeons ago, slipped out of his gray house for a smoke on his front stoop. I’ve always been grateful for his “cackling hen” that the yellow apartment buildings across the street can get wild on 4th of July, and for his pledge to keep on eye on me. Blue tooth in ear, he awaited the online support gods to grant him fruitful audience. Though his own yard is completely unattended, I was still touched when he complimented the progress in my landscaping efforts, and was thoroughly impressed when he told me there used to be Ribes in the corner where our lots meet. Ribes! How many folks know the Latin for currants? Or would understand that they would be strangled by an overgrown volunteer elm?
He stepped over to see the serviceberry I planted along our boundary. Dogs inside, content with his presence on the stoop, bark their complaints. I understand. Willie, though quiet, would have purchased himself on the back of the sofa to track my whereabouts. Neighbor man’s voice goes all soft as he calls in to quiet his companions. I understand. There is a special voice for the ones who wag when we come home. I want to tell him about Willie. I’m sure he’s already understood.
His phone calls him in. Wait! Wait! I want to talk fruit! More importantly, I want to cast off my shroud of mourning and find out who you are.
Moment passed, I simply must consider planting Ribes aureum “Gwen’s buffalo”, a 5-6′ shrub with black fruit. In my neighbor’s honor, of course.
Not much later, the wind parades up the street. I am not so self-absorbed to think it does so for my personal benefit. Yet, as the freshness of it sweeps through each room, I resolve: Tomorrow, I will take a morning walk for the first time since that old soul led me from the end of his leash. It’s time. Time to revive the endorphins in my system. Time to honor the joy that little four-legged guy brought into my life.