Drizzle hiccoughs through lowering clouds that resemble circus elephants at play.

Occasional splats on my slicker intrude upon the stillness and quicken my breathing. Languid breezes muss my hair, and my nose twitches with smells of musk. Alive to the freshness around me, I pause.

A solitary crow caws, as it flaps its wings against the leaden sky and soars to the upper reaches of an evergreen. Ahead of me, the slick asphalt road snakes around the bend, lined with a grove of yellow bamboo. Heaps of luminous leaves by the curb, their stems upended, smack of exhausted gymnasts after a tournament. A few whole acorns, unlike others crunched by passing cars, draw the toe of my sandal.

I resume walking, slowly—So much to take in—In the distance looms a mustard- yellow maple; from its brown-to-black-divided trunk articulate mothering branches that offer more inspiration, more protection—Droplets hug shriveled leaves of shrubs—A calico cat darts for cover in a nearby yard—Glistening jack-o-lanterns grin from front porches, and spent chrysanthemums brown and list sideways in gardens.

In every cell of my being subtle rhythms resonate: within them, I surrender, anew, to the multiple changes occurring within and around me. I give thanks.

 

 

 

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“Her name is Millicent—She’s nine weeks old.” Her voice trills, her dark eyes flash, her rounded shoulders stand tall as my neighbor shifts the short leash to her other gloved hand. Around her heels teeters her new poodle, its blonde scrimpy coat unlike the tawny one of Fredericka, her predecessor.

For long years my neighbor had cared for Fredericka: groomed her meticulously, walked her mornings and evenings, attired in appropriate rain or snow gear; and when younger, coached her to prance on hind legs to the squeals of kids. Even her hair color and loose fitting dresses complemented Fredericka’s. They were inseparable.

However, this spring brought change. Heavy were the steps of both my neighbor and Fredericka. Their walks were shorter, their spirits lagging. It was just a matter of time. And then my neighbor climbed the hills alone, her head bowed as if still searching for Fredericka, her black pointed shoes plodding resolutely upon the sidewalk. Somber was her attire and mood.

But no longer—winds now tease strands of blonde hair across my neighbor’s forehead and whips open her cream-colored long coat. Vibrantly alive, she bursts with news and the Universe is listening. We are too.

 

The sign is old, weather-worn, its letters somewhat faded, but again the invitation is extended:

 

 

No matter the overcast skies, the chill in the air—barricades close off the street to vehicular traffic, cloth-covered tables and folding chairs fill the cul-de-sac, and neighbors carrying hot and cold platters and bowls filled with choice recipes spill onto the sidewalk. Their steps suggest enthusiasm, camaraderie, and anticipation that new residents will join in on the fun around the brazier fire.

What’s unusual about this block party is its longevity. Established in 1973 by a handful of residents, intent upon creating a haven for their growing children, the annual gathering did just that. Within this ambiance they thrived, as well as countless others, in succeeding decades. Currently, ten children below the age of seven are blossoming; another attends high school and two in universities.

Such neighborliness has fused a tangible energy that still pulsates among the twenty-two brick bungalows that line Douglas Court. Like kaleidoscopes with ever-changing jeweled vistas, stories abound: babies, grandbabies, graduations, birthday and anniversary parties, holiday gatherings, diminishments, even deaths, each illumined by the waxing and waning of sun-years.

Such a privilege to have lived on Douglas Court for over twelve years! I’m so grateful—and there have been many signs.

 

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