Pushing open the doors, a gray overcast sky greets me, poking in between the colds to create space are the houses, A-frame ticky-tacky colorless comfortable shelters that protect us from the elements and each other. A few windows are cracked open, the blinds still drawn closed and the curtains ruffled to hold back the outside from the inside.
At least the birds are awake, they sing in a magic of drunken stupor for a brand new day. And even though every bird has its own song, the chorus of their sweet tones bring them into unison, the sun the conductor and the sky, their audience.
My feet draw me down the sidewalk, caring the weight of last night’s dreams scrambled up in my head and drawing back down under the earth like worms that were uncovered with a gigantic shovel. The darkness is where the warmth lives, the wetness of soft ground and the comfortability of the weight pressured downwards.
Winter’s transition into spring has been one of handholding and uncertain releases of wild rains across the ground. The meeting of tropical plants, palms, and flowers colliding with the deserts that sprawl in their dryness. We somehow have made a home in the middle, finding the balance and creating what is possible.
The neighborhoods awoken to the sunlight, filtered through the gray, casting shadows across the driveways as coffee is made and engines are revved. Each door slams, each key clicks, and the gears trudge from reverse to a forward motion, taking each of us individually in our metal boxes to join the cowherd of the highway heading south. It’s nice to just rest in the morning quietude, present in the open air, watching the birds flutter from one branch to another, wings vibrating overhead.
Unique in their similar ways, houses stack behind hedges, plants peaking through fence lines and creating barriers from the street. Are the neighbors protecting themselves from the outside world or the outside world is protected from them? Flowers and cacti dot the yards, someone’s motivation to create a sanctuary space of beauty left to take over what it wants where it is. Hopefully, the gardeners will take better care, trimming back the branches and leaves to maintain a sense of organization.
Litter of the street, old crushed water bottles and McDonald’s food wrappers strewn in the gutters from last night’s party. The street belongs to us all, the ocean as our mother, who is going to take care of picking these things up? Apartment buildings are stacked on top of one another, no smoking signs plastered to doorways as the other side of the street becomes the secret place to partake in prohibited activities. Parents won’t know their kids are drinking shooters of 99 bananas and cans of Modelos if they are buried among the icicle plants that climb up and down the neighbor’s retaining wall. Without a doubt, the emptied cans and bottles come become lawn ornaments, hidden under trees and lost among the bushes for treasure seekers to find in one hundred years.
Early in the morning, the dogs will begin to bark as each passerby gets too close to their invisible boundary, stagnating the birds cheerful wakeup calls with a rough transition to the hurriedness of what needs to be accomplished that day. While not everyone is in a rush to begin their morning, there are the elderly neighbors in their oversized windbreakers, hunched a bit with a crooked step slowly hobbling down the street. From fields away, they look up with a wave and a trumpeted greeting, saying “hello!” to all who meet their gaze.
Even in the stacked houses, one next to another, there is life teeming from the natural world. Coyotes howl at the break of dawn on their patrol for food, crying with the train’s whistle. Crows with their black feathers and purple sunlit hues caw, jumping from lamppost to palm frond. The sand dunes that flood and melt with the transitional rains pour onto the sidewalks, leaving mud for the tracks of wildlife to make their mark. The lagoon slopes down to meet the opening to the ocean, waiting for the tides to rise so that their waters can be exchanged. Between the cattails and muddied inlets, mallards quack and nest in the muck, banding together and gliding across the rippled morning waters in search for food to grace their female counterparts with.
The quiet of the morning opens in a vast skyline towards the ocean’s horizon. Gray though the sky may be, the ocean gently crashes along the shoreline and flows smoothly across bridge pillars to reach new sands. Even the cars crossing the highway in their whir and woosh sound like waves along the cement, echoing up and across the pylons to lull those who can back into a tranquil sleep.
The neighborhood is where we have grown our roots among Mother Earth, with her, and on her. She has offered enough space so that life can continue to thrive, providing shade with her trees and nourishment with her depths. We surround ourselves with walls to protect us from the outside world, building up and expanding out. Our closed curtains, unopened windows and whirring garage doors block us from experiencing the vastness of the sky above and the sweet air of an oceanic breeze. Though it may be a bit cool, it offers a vitality and a space for courage to grow openly.
The neighborhood is our community, we share it with our loved ones, we trust our walls to protect us but don’t spend the time hugging the trees that provide groundedness with its roots and shade with its branches. Not often enough do we simply sit to appreciate the breeze as it cools our skin in the warm summer sun, nor wiggle our toes amongst the grass that we have cultivated and continues to be nourished by the fertile grass beneath it.
And so I choose to open my windows. I stick my finger through the hole in the screen and crack it a bit wider as the rusted wires snap a bit under the force. I watch as the glowing green hummingbird darts among the purple morning glories and perches so gently on top of the orange birds of paradise. Simplicity in the quiet, gratitude expanded through the heart to open to the greenery hands of the trees that extend down to rub our heads and caress our minds.