Neighborhood Trees

watercolor painting of neighborhood trees in Sabin, Portland, Oregon by Alexandra Schaefers

Today is a warm, blossoming day. The first day of spring, in fact. I am lounging outdoors on my friend’s porch in Sabin. My ankle is a bit sprained but this porch—surrounded by neighborhood trees and blue skies—is so decadent I don’t feel bad about it.

The wind rushes through the tall fir with the spray of ocean sounds then rattles the branches of the blossoming deciduous trees on the other side of the block, then rushes through the fir again.

Dead leaves scitter across the driveway. Crows pass over now and again calling to each other. The traffic, the chirp of sparrows and goldfinches, clatter of a cyclist, a man shushing a baby while pushing a stroller down the sidewalk.

watercolor illustration of crows flying by Alexandra Schaefers

A soda can cracks open in the house. My friend comes out to check on me. I show him my sketches. He talks about mini computers, knobs, switches and 3D printed brackets for LED lights. I absorb every twelfth word and feel bad for my poor friendship skills.

Meanwhile finches sing in the treetops while people rearrange things in their backyards and kids holler at a nearby park invoking the sound of violent death.

Car doors. Shadows flit back and forth across the porch, the old green couch, my lap. A bird shaped shadow sails across the light. I look up to see two sparrows hopping about in last year’s wisteria plucking bits of twigs before flying off.

watercolor illustration of a bird shadow by Alexandra Schaefers

A breeze cools my face and carries a dry leaf down the sidewalk. An insect passes; I look up and see their light bodies hovering here and there in the open air. Crows again. The screen door creaks on its own volition. Wind chimes tinker. A car.

A little hair blows in front of my face and I remember myself separate from the warmth, the peaceful goings-on of eternity as it tends to its everyday chores on the block. Its clear I have been doing everything wrong; thinking myself into a person, into a purpose, a quest to find beauty even though it is exactly where I left it.

The chimes pick up again as the ocean sings through the fir while car stereos add beats from two different directions.

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