Same path, different perspectives.
In keeping with an earnest desire to find meaning in an otherwise lackluster universe, I set out this week to walk my local path, (as I reported on last week), only tweaking it slightly by starting out in a different direction, adding about 10 minutes to my over-all journey.
I should point out that I live in a condominium complex (what else?) in Florida, one that is not high-rise and does not number thousands of “Units”(the places within a Complex where humans actually dwell). The entire Subdivision is separated into two distinct areas, I presume for marketing purposes, so one section could be sold while the second was under construction. The buildings are essentially the same size and style in each area, with no unit above two stories in either.
I’ll call the first area section A. While the buildings are essentially the same in both areas, those in section A, along with two story “duplex” and “?four-plexes”(my word), also includes single story “Villas”(a Florida favorite) not available in section B, and section A has a more spacious allotment of grass-to-concrete ratios plus a very limited boat launch and floating dock access to a 5 acre lake that section B shares but only indirectly. i.e after a walk of at least six minutes.
I live in section B but prefer to spend more of my walking time in section A, sort of where “the other half” live. Not that that amounts to anything. While A people may brag about landscaping and genuine Lake Front property,(see last week’s post re: FL lake front property; Paths and Turns Without Compass Envy, we B people gloat that we excel in humanoid density and vehicular parking space that assures that no matter how many residents, party animals, week-end visitors, etc. may be “on-site” at any given time, no one will have to walk more than 2.77 minutes to their abode. And should you be wondering about personal safety/security, each Section has an iron gate with individual unit code clicker for one’s auto that deters unwelcome stragglers with their potentially evil intentions from simply walking in and disturbing us. I must admit, however, that teen-age children easily by-pass such security with relative ease using the walk around or up and over method on foot, and vehicles that have no electronic access can still tail-gate an owner if they time it correctly and drive on in, and have, on more than one occasion, by-passed the tail-gating maneuver by carefully aligning the front end of their vehicle with the gate and steadily pushing on the gate. (Just flat-out ramming it also works, if the driver so chooses).
Now you have more information than you probably need, but I’m a firm believer in placing information in its proper context. “Info, sans context, is confusing and useless”, rdh, 3/30/1976.
As I was saying, my ten minutes walk introduction was almost over when I came across a neighbor, Mister X (for our purposes here). [adding background for context, get it?]…We have lived here for four yrs, eight mos., more or less, and Mr. X lives in the next building over. We see each other occasionally, driving by, putting out trash containers, rare neighborhood get-togethers, etc. My first thought was – “Oh no, he’s going to go on endlessly, usually complaining about living conditions in our complex Complex life here.” But then, in a kind of Zen, Be here, Be now moment, I decided to engage in a word exchange.
“Hi, ******”, I said. I remembered his name and the fact that his little dog that he was walking was quite tame and mild-mannered. Mr. X, not recognizing me, assured me that the dog doesn’t bite – but I already knew that.
Mr. X wondered did I live here. “Yep, right here behind us, second floor.” Not adding that his building was about 30 feet to the left of ours. “Been here almost five years.”
“Oh”, said he. “I’ve been here seven or eight. Hate it here. Don’t like being told what I can or cannot do on my own property. People always moving in or out. Four or five in the last few months. They all say ‘We’ll stay in touch’, and they never do. I own two other places, one a few miles east of here and another in the next town north of here. The only reason I stay here is my wife wants to be closer to the grand-kids.”
I should point out that both the areas that he mentioned are probably no more than five or ten miles from where we were standing, causing me to wonder just how close the Mrs. needed to be to the grand-kids. I know her to be both ambulatory and capable of driving her own car. But then, its only a fact, not a subject for my personal evaluation,(I’m trying to stay only in the here and now.)
I was not tempted to ask too many questions about Mr. X’s past or present and figured we both had our fill of self-disclosure for today. I remarked that I should be off, as I needed to complete my 30 minute walk somewhat on schedule.
“So add five minutes of conversation time to your schedule and you’ll be fine”, he helpfully observed.
“Exactly,” I said. I extended my hand and said, “Good seeing you, ******.” He shook my hand and said, “you even know my name” I refrained from a rude “Duhh” (no Zen in that) but I had seen him enough to wave to and call out Hi ****, how are you. In reply I simply said I had a knack for faces and names, and would see him around.
During this departure exercise, ****** was busy winding little dog’s leash of some 20 0r 30 feet by my estimate, around his palm and elbow, such as one would coil up a length of garden hose or bow line of a boat. This is very interesting, as our HOA by-laws stipulate that ALL dogs must be on no more than an 8 ft leash and owners are to pick up all solid residue that their pets leave on common grounds. Most owners are compliant and in five years I’ve seen wandering dogs maybe once or twice and rarely have to avoid doggie doo-doo residue. But in keeping with ******’s dislike for unreasonable regulations, his 8 foot leash now consists of 2 or 3 eight ft lengths clipped together and always connected to the dog but usually not to the owner. My wife has cogently observed that he walks his dog on a leash – one that is trailed along behind the dog and the owner is somewhat compliant – and who could argue? The dog is on a leash.
“Later”, I said, and wandered off, mulling over the challenges of neighbor-acceptance and the wisdom of “live and let live”.
I continued my usual path through section A, over to the boat launch – all was as it should be – the only boat I’ve ever seen launched was not a boat but a sizeable sea-doo or PWC, personal water craft, coming back from a test ride with a young couple aboard, who were visiting relatives, they said. (Personal observation- this was a craft that belongs on the Gulf of Mexico, not on this quaint little lake.) But then, least you think I’m too old and retired to appreciate things modern, I never complained openly about the fact that two-hundred yards from where I stood, someone used to commute from his real lake-front home with a sea-plane. Ommmm.
Back up to my sidewalk stroll, where again, I almost walked into the Crane family, all four, feasting again on unseen live things under the dirt, only six or eight feet from where they were two days ago. Chow-on my friends.
Sure enough I soon came across the Barbados fellows power washing driveways with care and concentration. Father and son this time. I inquired of the father, who obviously was enjoying his role of supervisor while son buffed away on the concrete, were they indeed from Barbados or was that just a touristy license plate on the front of their truck.
“Yes. Been here since 1982. Going back for Christmas this year, first time in over twenty years.”
“Wonderful,” I observed. “Great time to be in Barbados”
Then,seizing upon the opportunity to clarify a sticky pronunciation problem I’ve had, ever since I heard someone of English extraction pronounce the island name as BARbados, I discreetly inquired if that was the proper pronunciation, or was it truly, BarBAdos.
I suspect he too suppressed a “duhh” urge and said,
“BarBAdos. Its BarBAdos.”
“Of course,” I said, and quickly put the blame squarely on the Brit that should have know better.
“Have a great day, and thanks. Safe trip to BarBAdos.” And off I went, thinking I was having a very informed kind of zen experience today. Little did I know what awaited me!
A few minutes later I realized that I had used up most of my allotted time and most of my mileage. As I rounded the corner of the last building I would pass within section A and progressed beyond some shrubs, I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw the missing Calico Kitty walking near a water-retention area. “Hello, Calico Kitty,” I said quietly, trying to not frighten her away. Then I saw a second cat, a black and white Tuxedo cat near to building, and there, big as life but not so tall, behind the screen door was the little old owner lady from the other day.
I waved to her and she apparently recognized me and beckoned me to come over.
-Aha, to my self.- A chance to explain my dilemma about what to do if I should spy her missing calico, apologize for my lack of clarity and to seize upon another Zen moment. What a day I was having.
Yes, she said, the kitty had come back and joined her Tuxedo friend and a third family member who, being perpetually shy, was in the bedroom, under the bed and not likely to show up. A happy three cat family. Come in and sit she said. I was a little reluctant at first, being by history somewhat of the “under the bed” kind of animal, but my subconscious Zen thing kicked in, arguing, Why not, the poor lady is probably starving for a little human conversation.
“Thank you. I will sit for a minute”. She pointed to a chair and stepped into her home for a minute. She returned quickly and I stood and shook hands. “I’m Richard,” I said. She introduced herself as ****. (I thought about using her name here but in the interest of safety I choose not to, as it may become possible for some disgruntled NSA laid-off hacker to track down her location and presume upon her to part with some of the diamond accessories that weighed down her hand.)
We proceeded to have a lengthy chat – I was correct to assume she would love to chat with someone who said more than Meow and purred and slept a lot. I hardly ever meow.
In short order I learned the Calico often wandered about; the Tuxedo was rescued shortly after being born and abandoned and (I’ll call her Lill, (as in Diamond Lill I guess) was taken by kayak by my hostess to a vet and nurtured to a full life.
Infering in good investigative style that she must have an interesting past, I said,”By Kayak, you said…where was that,” I questioned.”
“I was living in the Keys then.” she ventured. Before that, my (now deceased)husband and I lived in North Carolina. Then we moved to Florida, (the next county north of here) and several other places in this county.
I was realizing that I could be in for a long haul as they say. Besides moving around a lot, we have many things is common – my wife’s French-Canadian lineage – Lill is from the Provence de Quebec; my younger daughter once owned a Tuxedo cat, and we had rescued a cat from a pound in NH, which cat, oh happy day, promptly delivered several darling kitties when we got her home. Lill has an adult daughter living nearby, sans children, and a son living in California, sans spouse. Endless opportunities were presenting themselves for further discussion, but I felt my Zen impulse waning and my “let’s have lunch” urge twisting at my stomach.
I moved the discussion to an apt close by saying how happy I was that her feline family was still in tact, but warned her that my wife had reported seeing a calico cat on her building’s roof, which she could hardly believe and immediately proclaimed with just, motherly contempt, it wasn’t her cat, and advised her that Missy Calico had better keep her distance from the woodsy area out back and not offer snacking occasions for ‘gators.
At the mention of alligators on the premises Lill’s eye’s opened wide in disbelief. I wondered to myself how someone so acquainted with Florida life could be in denial of gator reality in her back yard.
“Oh yes,” I assured her,” but they usually stay in the local ponds, but its best not to temp their appetites.”
She was grateful for the information and thanked me for stopping and chatting. “You must bring your wife sometime” she graciously offered.
I took my hungry feet back to the sidewalk, waved good-bye to a charming lady with lots of history and a chronic, residual back pain from having experienced a case of shingles, and headed for the little footbridge to take me back to section B.
Had I looked back, I imagine I might have seen at least one “kitty” staring after me with something of an evil eye.
Chill, kitty, I may have impaired your freedom to roam but could have, inadvertently,saved at least one of your nine lives.
Just another day with perhaps a small dose of Zen awareness.