Saturday, August 27, 2005

According to my Funk and Wagnells dictionary, an alley is a narrow street. It comes from the Middle English word "aley" which means "walk". It's true that most of the alleys I've been down are narrow. Some are wide enough for for a single car. Some, like the alleys that exist between two buildings are only wide enough for a single person to travel through. But an alleyway implies more than just a narrow steet. Alleys usually take me around to the backside of things. When I travel down the alleys in my neighborhood, I find myself traversing between backyards, seeing not the front porch face people put on things, but their more private selves: where people play and don't always pick up their toys; where stuff piles up if there are stuff-piles; where outdoor dogs live when they haven't jumped the fence and are roaming the neighborhood chasing people who unwisely wander down alleyways.

If I make the word into a metaphor, I come closer to a meaningful definition of it. If I talk about getting lost in the alleyways of life or love, then I'm saying something about being pulled off track, drawn into the hidden side of things, diverted away from the mapped and known experience and into the unknown. It seems important that I have both options. I like both ways of seeing the world, staying on the well-lit, familiar path, and then sometimes slipping down the weedy alleyways.

Monday, August 22, 2005

My dog Keeper is five years old. I brought him home on April Fool's Day in the year 2000. According to the people at the humane society, he is part Dachsund and part Pomeranian. So that makes him a Dacheranian. Or maybe it makes him a Pomdach. Most people say they can see the Pomeranian part because of his tail and his tendency to smile a lot. Some people don't believe the Dachsund part...they don't see any signs of wiener doggedness. At least one person is convinced he's part Japanese Sheba dog.

One of my friends says simply, "He's a funny looking dog." Keeper and I look at each other and wonder. What is it? Legs too short? Body too long? Tail doesn't go with the head? What? Whatever it is that makes him look funny to other people, we just can't quite see it. I guess it comes from living too close to the mystery on a daily basis.

It's enough to make one want to curl up in a window seat and sleep on it for several hours.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

A few years ago, when I was visiting Dublin, Ireland, I came across a tribute to Oscar Wilde. Wilde is one of Ireland's favorite satirists in a country where a taste for the ironic is developed early in life. In the corner of a large urban public garden, a life sized statue of Wilde rested on a grassy hillside; Wilde was sprawled on the grass, propped up by his elbows, gazing sardonically at those who passed by. At his feet was a circular walkway paved in polished granite, and at its center was a polished granite pillar. The granite on both the pillar and walkway had been engraved with famous sayings by the writer. One for instance: "We are all of us lying in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars." The quotations were handwritten by different people, so each quote looked like graffiti someone had scrawled in passing. My son Matt picked one out as his favorite, so I took a picture of it. I think it describes how we experience Life pretty well: "This suspense is terrible. I hope it will last."

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

The other night my husband, Jon, and I went for an ice cream drive. We used to do this with my two sons, heading to an old ice cream stand on the north side of town (one in fact that my parents took me to when I was a kid). The most important part of this late summer ritual was that we would all be barefoot and dressed in pajamas, except for Jon who had the job of going to the walk up window to place our order. Because he had to make a public appearance, he had to be fully clothed. There was something about it...driving down the street late at night with all the windows down, a quick dash for ice cream then home to bed...the best. The stand (pictured above) is now closed, but I have high hopes that some day it will reopen. In the meantime, there are plenty of other stands to frequent.

My sons are older now and less likely to travel in the car with us for ice cream and certainly not in their pajamas. So it was just me and Jon the other night. We chose to ride in the convertible. Not just any convertible, but Jon's restored 1968 Datsun Fair Lady 2000. It's a silver two seater car. Low to the ground, small enough to be almost a go cart. It's loud and fast, and when I'm riding in it, I feel like I'm in a small old style speedboat. The roads are ribbons of flat water and we are buzzing through the city leaving everything in our wake. I know it's an optical illusion. Because we are so low to the feels like we are going much faster than we are. But I like the sensation a lot.

When we got to the ice cream place which was brightly lit, we found the place crowded with people who were standing in clusters around the parking lot. Some were sitting in their cars or on their cars. We pulled in, got out, placed our order. (I got something with vanilla custard, melted chocolate and stawberries.) When we walked back to the Fair Lady, I noticed that in the car next to us was an older white-haired woman. I couldn't see much of her but I could see her hair which had been recently done up in a very firm bee hive. She had backed her largish four door sedan into a space, and sat licking a single vanilla ice cream cone. I watched her watching people and licking her cone. I couldn't tell if she is enjoying herself or not, because she didn't once change her staight-faced expression. Something about her though made me glad she was there, glad she got herself out the door for a summer ice cream cone, even if she was going to be eating it alone. There's something more to say here...something about hoping I'll be able to do same some day if it ever comes down to it, cruise across town for ice cream on a hot summer night, just out of principle, alone or not.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Hummingbirds have taken over my small garden. They fight with the wrens and the finches. They dive bomb the crows. They fight with each other over flowers and the hummingbird feeder which I've filled with red sugar water. One morning I sat drinking coffee on the back porch and one flew up directly in front of me and hovered there for several seconds. I was wearing a red night shirt, and I'm sure he thought I had potential as a source of sustenance, but after a few moments consideration, he thought better of it and veered off. Another morning the same hummingbird, or one exactly like him, flew up to the window of my sunroom and peered in, then flew to a pot of petunias, the chair, a watering can. I got the feeling he was staking a claim over each of them. "Mine. Mine. Mine, mine, mine." They take over everything. And how can one argue with them? Before a person (or creature) can protest, they're already gone.