Thursday, March 26, 2015

Thoughts on an alley

The tree across the street is sporting new green buds. Set against the dark spiny branches, they look almost neon, dazzling the gray spring morning canvas.

I have a thing for trees. I don't think I'll ever tire of looking at them, the way they bend and stretch, always in their own unique way. The other day I was strolling through a local garden and this glorious creature stood donned in a pale pink. The blossoms draped like a willow, the branches resembled an abstract painting. If trees had personalities, which I fully believe they do, I'd want to be friends with this lady. We'd have tea and pastries in her very exotic garden, probably filled with gnomes and statutes. She'd tell me about her travels and almost love affairs with Italian men who made pasta and of Vespa rides through the ancient streets, when the lights danced across the river and music filled the air. She's a hopeless romantic, of course, and the real world hasn't tarnished her at all.

In the backyard of one of our old homes was the tallest, grumpiest grandfather of a tree. So many knotty branches, all twisted and broken. Something pale and green grew in the places where the bark wasn't peeling. I imagine him as the kind of old man who appears distant and uninviting, but if you won him over, he'd tell the very best stories and always come to your defense. I would sit in my chair as the kids played in the cluster of trees and study him. Strong and silent, it was as if he watched over us. Maybe he was dying, but he wasn't letting go of him gumption.

Right now, we live in the city, the only trees on our property are the Great Myrtles that line the street. Soon they'll burst into a marvelous pink and make the whole place will feel a little more charming. It's one of those up and coming neighborhoods not far from the trendy parts of town and equally close to the places you'd be wise to avoid in daylight or dark. In my opinion up and coming is used with great optimism, is it not? In the front yard jutting out of the ground is a grand stump, the kind that children could hug and their fingers would not touch. We looked online once and saw the house sheltered in its expanse. I wonder why they chopped it down, I feel like the reason is never quite good enough.

However, we are surrounded by trees. They line the alley and stretch across the fence lines, segmenting properties into square domains. The alley as you might expect is not given much attention. Brushes and rouge limbs droop over the dirt road. You'll pass gardens, a small shed once used by an artist, still full of tools and paint. There's a large fence that houses an unfriendly dog whose name, according to the haphazard spray paint is Tupac. Garbage blown by the wind collects against the fence of one yard amidst the towering weeds. In the opposite direction not too far from a tree of interest is what might be the making of a very legal car junk yard and other very legal activities. Then on another side is a wooden fence with a welcome sign and flower pots with living, thriving plants. All this is the alley of one city. Ours is the yard nestled between privacy fences that we try to keep clean, but is usually scattered with toys. It would be easy to only see the questionable parts of our little neighborhood, but did I mention we have the front porch of our dreams. It doesn't overlook a mountain or sparkling water, but when sitting on the swing you'll catch all the best breezes and there's some excellent people watching.

And if you stand in the alley and look beyond the overgrowth and the arching tunnel of trees so thick that the light doesn't break through it. Beyond Tupac and garden flags and backyards that could be a flea market or used (stolen) car lot, the light shines upon a resilient white door set in the one hundred year old walls of a red brick church. The stonework of a craftsman arches above and three small steps rest below. On top a steeple is encircled in light as you look down the alley. Whether gray or blue, the sky is brilliant in contrast to the tree line. It's so easy to miss for all the stuff. It is even easy to miss when trying to avoid the deep potholes that might ruin your car, but there it is, every single time.

I never want to be a writer who draws out the deeper meaning and beats it to a simple mind-numbing and catchy pulp. There is a need for that, but never here. Readers must find their own understanding.

So, I will end this rabbit trail of thoughts on trees and alleys, on shadows and light. And maybe, my words carry a sparkle, something reflective of something greater.


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