Fresh wet racoon tracks, like tiny long fingered hands, just visible next to the oyster shells, plastic bottles, fish skeletons, rocks and cement chunks that is the shore line. Every low tide brings more sandy space but no matter the hour I arrive, finding prints announce the racoon has already come and gone. The pelicans stand on their ancient perch, willets watch and walk on their bendy straw backward knee legs, tiny sea sparrows dart with abandon, and a woodpecker, red topped, reckless, with his deliciously rock and roll raucous, serenades all from his vertical band stand on the pine.
Snow White’s avian friends helped her clean on her adventure, mine help me breathe on my quick escapes to the trash dumpster at the far edge of the trailer park. A little daily detour and deep peaceful breaths, a welcome break in the care taking of others. My other coping mechanism is escaping into my imagination, daydreaming, head in the clouds at a moments notice, maybe need some serious mental health help, day dreaming.
It is a talent handed down from my father.
” Where shall we go?”, was the question he asked us as we gathered around him at the dinner table. He would pause looking at each one of us carefully, and then take down the giant green leather-bound atlas from its upper most shelf. None of us would move as he slowly held the book aloft, closed his eyes, and then in a swift movement open the atlas at random, laying his finger upon our destination. We would all lean in then, jostling for position, no one wanted to be the one who had to look at the upside down pages. He would name the foreign land, tell us about the flora, fauna climate, and when he finished reading, we ran off to pack our bags. Although our bodies never really left the house, our imaginations always took flight.
Mom was not included in the itinerary, her flights of imagination were much loftier. They included getting all five children in bed before the beginning of Master Piece Theater.
My mother used to say, “You are away with the birds…” a statement meant to softly shame, a so too often serious woman, it was meant as a wake up call. Instead this girl child stayed dreaming ; dreaming dreaming out the window, on the roof, up a tree, climbing, away with the birds dreaming. I am Captain Kirk, Jacques Cousteau, David Attenborough, and Errol Flynn. Adventure my calling, Bilbo and Smaug, Lessa of Pern, Frodo, Aragorn, and Gandolf the Grey my constant companions. I still seek entrance to their world, even now.
I turn away from the pelicans, willets, sparrows, and wood pecker, start walking back, and make a mental note in my field guide that other native fauna are out as well. The sound of heavy machinery in the park has drawn them out, it is their call, the call of retired men everywhere, someone is working, we must watch.
A tree trimming truck, complete with instant grind anything into a fine mulch shredder machine has arrived. Palm trees need trimming. The grey heads fully covered with team logos, fishing lures, military emblems, and various straw are standing in groups of two or three, arms crossed anticipating the next branch to be destroyed. Approval and stories of their own tree trimming escapades are exchanged within the group. There are no women.
Like a naturally occurring gender divide on a first grade playground, its boys for boys, and girls for girls here. The men sit together in the cars, usually in the front, woman together, in the back. Walking if done for its own sake is mostly for woman, two by two and never silently. If walking is a means to a mission, then men of course walk, because they are going somewhere and doing something, important work.
A noticable geriatric gender line is carefully observed here at Sky Harbor Estates.
The gender barrier is breached on certain evenings, when cards are played at the club house for instance, at the Sunday Evening Ice Cream Social, 7 pm all you can eat!, and when invitations are issued.
My marches through the park allow me great field study opportunities.
Friday Nights bring out the singles, single men invited over for, ? what ever is on the menu. Aaron Spelling would have another hit show if he followed the appetites of this crowd.
I smell the Polo before I actually see him. I’m heading down the street, he turning in at the bottom by the bay, Ascot wearing blue blazer Thurston Howell the Third nods as I pass him going the opposite direction. I smirk when he passes; how adorable, the man has in invite I think, Friday night heading to a date. I stride on, Gaga again blasting.
Then I see him again as I round the next corner, still approaching me, How did he get here so fast my mind wonders…again I smell the Polo and think nothing more of it.
On the third pass, I turn and find him close behind me.
Ok this is starting to freak me out now. I sprint, ahead, turn off the iPod, and change directions so if he is still following I will run directly into him.
I finish one pass before I smell him.
He is right behind me, again.
I run like the girl I was from Griffith elementary cutting through backyards, getting the fuck off the road, I cut across side yards dodging orange trees, lattice covered gates, and garden Gnomes. I sprint up the driveway, into the kitchen door with a slam, and turn off the porch lights.
My tomato face gives me away when I enter the family room, that and the fact I can not breathe because number one, I ran, like really ran, as in running from something trying to get you run.
Between gasping breaths I tell my tale, Hilda laughs, as does everyone else in the room. By the end of the evening I have talked myself into chalking it up to my very active imagination. But I don’t go out after dark anymore, I had forgotten the cardinal rule of observing native fauna, they are wild creatures in their own natural habitat, not cute, and nothing to be taken lightly.
I walk in the afternoon light streaming afternoon and on my first walk I turn the final corner, and there crossing the road right in front of me is the racoon. He is moving slowly, kind of a walking shuffle ten feet in front of me. He crosses and enters a drive way on my left, as I pass, I look in, he is perched atop a trash can and looking at me, I can’t help but laugh, both of us rather nocturnal creatures forced out into the sunshine to escape the predatory native fauna.