ravine trail

The new trail opens up the wildest area in this urban forest oasis. Clusters of mushroom sprout from the center of the path. Few have walked here yet. It is high summer and the wood thrush yet sings. Cicadas offer up a constant backing drone. Point of fact: dogs don’t process the switchback concept. It conflicts with their innate knowledge of the shortest distance rule. As the trail climbs from the deepest shaded low point, the morning heat barges uninvited into the cool air space. Sounds of the nearby freeway intrude. As I struggle to adapt, a certain chorus tears through my head in response. This walk is soon over.

early morning people

The city can seem cold and unfeeling. Thus, the temptation arises to shoehorn the masses into roles limited to acrimony or apathy, simply based on random anecdotal experiences.

Early morning is the best time to mitigate this wrong perception. Early morning people are different. They spontaneously greet each other and show consideration. Kind words are exchanged and eyes, for once, are not averted.

After 9 AM there begins a slow shift for the worse. The late risers trickle to the streets, leaking poison into the day’s veins. By noon, one might as well return to bed and wait for the next morning in order to continue bending this perception back into the right shape.

observations and updates

Life is full of contrast, yin and yang, often subtle, sometimes blatant. Saturday was a beautiful day, warm and sunny, while Sunday brought cold and rain. It was like living in two opposite climates in a single weekend. On Saturday we spent the day outside, hiking and visiting old friends. On Sunday we went to a soggy native plant sale and picked up a few more plants for the front yard. The cool wet weather continues today, ushering in the always jarring Monday Troll, having freshly clawed itself up the muddy embankment from its weekend under-bridge haunts. It sits on my keyboard now, all red gleaming eyes and slavering fangs.

The weekend yielded a few new first-of-year birds, including Northern Parula, Ovenbird, Louisiana Waterthrush, Yellow-throated Warbler, Black-and-white Warbler, Common Yellowthroat, and one of my all-time favorites, WOOD THRUSH! How happy was I to hear their dulcet notes while walking the arboretum trails on Friday evening.

This morning as I rode past the parole and probation office, a young man crossing the street in front of me yelled “Gimme that damn bike,” not even pausing in his stride and with no more than a cursory glance in my general direction. I am always mystified by interactions like this (a more aggressive spin on the classic “Hey, lemme borrow your bike” scheme). Did this guy expect me to immediately dismount and hand my bike over to him? He made no threatening gestures nor did he display any inclination to take my bike by force. His instruction was delivered in a manner more akin to a casual aside than a strict command, although I found his tone reflected a savagery inappropriate for such an early hour. Likely on his way to meet with his probation agent, perhaps he was not in the best of moods and needed to make some desperate attempt to assert control over his situation. I was almost tempted to stop and give him the bike just to see what he would do. I’m sure it would not have been what he was expecting. Maybe he would’ve asked me to hold it for him while he went inside and spoke with his agent. I can imagine him in the office, highly agitated, imploring his agent to hasten the meeting along: “C’mon, man, can we just finish this up? There’s a guy outside who’s gonna gimme his bike and I dunno how much longer he’s gonna wait for me.”

When you live in a crime-riddled city like this one, you need to have a sense of humor about stuff like this. Otherwise you’d stay in your house all the time with the blinds pulled shut.

a morning

As the train approaches, a small flock of birds gathers overhead, then settles into two trees. On board, everyone is reading. I, however, am listening and looking. One woman reads Rumi. A man reads a book called Ontologies in Medicine. Two people read the Bible in languages other than English. The man in front of me works on a Sudoku puzzle. A woman toward the front begins a conversation on one of those annoying walkie-talkie phones. The man’s voice on the other end squawks abrasively into the train. The woman responds gleefully. “Hi, how are you? I am on the light rail and am broadcasting our conversation to everyone on the entire train! Isn’t that so exciting?” (Actually I can’t hear her because I am listening to Wilderness at high volume, but these are the words I enjoy putting into her mouth). The woman across from her doesn’t seem to think it’s that exciting. She begins with dirty looks each time a transmission comes through the phone. Then she rapidly advances to dirty looks and a shake of the head. After that, she looks around in frustration to see if anyone else is annoyed. Either no one else cares, or they are doing a damn good job of hiding it. The phone woman gets off at North Ave and a man and woman get on. The man is in a motorized wheelchair and is missing the lower half of his left leg. He holds a bottle of what looks like urine. Off the train at Lexington, crescendoes rushing in my ears, clouds obscuring the sun. Rain is coming. And I forgot my umbrella. I walk. Everyone is smoking. On the sidewalk a crushed tiny plastic cup erupted its contents in stages: ketchup smeared like blood, obscene on bone white concrete. Farther along are ankles so thin they could snap. A face turns with startling beauty. Inside, I am loath to pause this soundtrack, to disrupt this rhythm. But that was just the prelude.

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