Sunday, February 9, 2014

on matters of perspective, walking

I went to a drugstore to get cough drops and stuff as here in the Las Vegas Valley I have developed a sore throat, cough, and laryngitis. The woman at the cash register said someone must not be feeling well, and I whispered, “That’s me.”

“Oh, too bad,” she said. “And it’s been so cold, too.”

I smiled, nodded, and once back home—back where I was staying for a bit in this dry, desert land—I checked the outside temperature. Fifty-five degrees.

This was another day.

It had been cloudy, but now later in the afternoon the clouds were breaking up. Except for the cough drop foray, I had spent the day indoors and had seen an excellent movie on TCM called “The Search” about the homeless and traumatized children left in Germany after World War II, though specifically about one boy and the mother who was searching for him (they’d last been together in a concentration camp, Auschwitz) and then there’s this American army guy (Montgomery Clift) who kind of bumps into the boy, offers him some of his sandwich, after the boy has run away from some officials who were trying to help all these children, and I hadn’t meant to watch the movie, but it started with all these kids in a boxcar, and then it was so good I couldn’t stop. So with the clouds breaking up and general weariness from not feeling well and from being in all day, I took a walk.

Walking here is a bit of a different nut from walking at home, where once out the door, off the porch, and across the yard I find myself—lose myself, perhaps—in a field of no restrictions. I walk this way or that way or any damn way I please, walk whichever way beckons. There’s no pavement, no fence, no curb, no street, no guiderail, no signals, not even a trail to follow except for the one I create, except for the ones left by animals. Where I am now is a field of pavement and the signs and lanes and sidewalks that go with it, houses and streets and driveways and yards. The homes are single-story, stucco adobe types with rocks instead of grass for lawn, these rocky lawns planted with palm trees and cacti and mounds and mounds of rosemary, green and sweet-smelling. And there are pine trees with long needles and large cones and various deciduous trees, mostly now without leaves, and I do not know what they are called. None are very big, most no taller than the homes they surround.

I get on a sidewalk and follow it, one foot in front of the other, barely thinking, and at first glance the homes all look alike, and indeed many are similar, built from the same plan, maybe four or five plans in all, and the street simply curves slightly and the yards are just all that brown stone pocked with variations on cacti (prickly pear and so on) and variations on palm (tall, short, pineapple) and then those other trees I do not know and the mounds and mounds of rosemary, some clipped, some shaggy, some with tiny blue flowers and some with honeybees about. Soon I see the homes and yards are all different, as here this yard has a theme of cement (or resin?) frogs lounging about in overalls and another has a southwestern theme of colorful Mexican pots and a bronze sun on the stucco wall. Some show an artistic knack for landscaping in cacti and palm and stone; others show they have a ways to go.

It’s amazing the googaws you can put in your yard. The turtles, the frogs, the cherubs, the butterflies, the bear, the deer, the rabbit, the buckets, the pots, the wishing wells, the dragons, the reflection balls, the glass beads, the wind chimes, the little tractors and trailers, the dinosaurs, and even, yes, there it is, a helmeted conquistador. I begin to wonder, if I had a yard of rock, would I adorn it? What would be my bent? Would I find a theme? Would a theme find me? I meander and follow the curved walk farther than I had intended.

As for wildlife, there is the long-legged, tall-eared jack rabbit loping by, and there are Canada geese and mallard ducks flat-footing around the pond at the golf course. There are hummingbirds and other, unidentified birds, and my favorite, the desert quail, also known as Gambel’s quail. They are about the size of pigeons, scurrying across the stoney yards in groups of two or three or more. They hurry between the mounds of rosemary, dart around the prickly cactus, sidestep all the googaws. Each has one long, black feather sprouting from the top of its head and like a periscope, it leads the way.