Monday, September 5, 2016

Now, Philadelphia

On Labor Day, I go for a morning walk. The air is cool, and our neighborhood is quiet. I am surrounded with green and growing things: wild gardens siege each row house; giant sycamores and osage trees thrust their roots below the sidewalks, cracking concrete and proving that nature's patience overcomes human construction; blankets of ivy ensheathe tree trunks and scale houses and banisters. On one street, a man on a tall ladder is detaching great armfuls of ivy from the brick facade of a row house, perhaps, I think, to get to internet cords beneath.

I spot some plants I know the names of. Zinnias make me think of my mother, hypericum berries remind me of my wedding bouquet. Gigantic sunflowers on one street corner droop down at me, their heads so heavy that if I stand on my toes I might be able to touch a petal. A spray of violet morning glory tumbles out of a side yard, uncultivated. This is a place where plants grow.

There are animals, too. Gray and brown squirrels zoom up tree trunks when I pass. A sorority of tiny birds moves as one from sidewalk to tree branch to fence post at my approaching step. Two girls race along the sidewalk, their curly hair as untamed as the ivy, and I notice that their race is not a race in the competitive sense; they are trying to run at the same pace, smiling and breathing in the cool air as their arms pump and flail.

Adults walk well-trained dogs -- I hear no barks at all. The humans, too, are silent. No one says hello or good morning, but their restraint doesn't strike me as hostile. We are all enjoying the quiet, acknowledging that we are visitors here. The true owners of this territory are the maples and cedars and vines.