Still walking in the mornings, always before the sun gets too high. It’s not just the cooler temperatures I like, it’s the company. For example, nearly every morning I see a very old man, who doesn’t use his cane, but carries it under his arm. In greeting he raises his index finger with a professorial air, eyes twinkling, and bids me a very quiet good morning. Joggers run by, faces damp, winded, arms pumping they nod their heads and smile. There’s the retired school teacher, who came to this country during the Iranian Revolution and accompanies her neighbor, a lady with a billow of dyed blonde hair and a gently lined face—who could be either eighty or a hundred—leading a fluffy miniature dog on a leash.
The older of these two women moves delicately (I suspect she’s had trouble with her hip). When I see them I always stop to chat. One has lived here longer than I’ve been alive. She tells me stories about the neighborhood; about how the city strung Christmas lights every year from the lofty branches of the Deodars, or the tale of two sisters who never married, and couldn’t stand to live together, so they each bought very grand houses separated only by the two lane boulevard.
The school teacher mostly speaks of her years as an educator, or about her grandchildren, but I know her road to America was frightening; some of her family imprisoned, others who were killed. Yet she tells me, somewhat wistfully, that the California hills remind her of a home she will never return to.
Then there are the morning voices that carry out of windows, kids either chirping or grumbling about getting out of bed, parents directing and wrangling.
The joy of walking out early is all about engagement, listening, community, so it mystifies me when I happen upon someone striding along, inextricably involved with their phone, turned inward, captive to echoing opinion, oblivious to the world around them…the beauty of the day,…the continuity of life…me, hell-bent on making eye contact and saying hello. I just want to shake them. But then I think better of it, as they are most likely to encounter reality all on their own, most likely by walking straight into a tree.
I wish all my friends in Britain well. We live in interesting times. Let’s hope the better angels of our nature prevail.