Neighborhood Trees

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

Today is a warm, blossoming day and the first day of spring. I am lounging outdoors on my friend’s porch in Sabin with a sprained ankle. This porch—surrounded by neighborhood trees and blue skies—is so decadent that I don’t feel bad about being laid up.

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

Dead leaves skitter across the driveway. Crows pass over now and again cawing. The traffic, the chirp of sparrows and goldfinches, the clatter of a cyclist all wend their lush sounds into my ears and bring me back down to earth.

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 about my poor friendship skills.

Meanwhile finches sing in the treetops while kids holler like violent death at a nearby park.

Shadows flit back and forth across the porch, the old green couch, and my lap. Then 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; its light body hovering here and there in the open air. Crows again. The screen door creaks on its own volition. Wind chimes tinker. A car whooshes by.

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. It’s suddenly crystal clear I have been doing everything backwards; 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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