I wouldn't say my porch was cacophonous but it grew noisy enough to elicit a few polite complaints from neighbors who were trying very hard to be accepted in the society of those who lived in far grander houses on higher hills, sedate houses that never communicated with the wind only with the FedEx man or sometimes UPS.
Yesterday, walking in an unfamiliar neighborhood, I found myself passing by houses with wide welcoming porches, thinking about that old cheerful porch of so many years ago where I sat happily many early mornings and where for one long afternoon and another even longer night, I sat aghast, watching great huge orange red flames leap from ridge to ridge, exploding houses and torching trees. Remembering the Oakland fire is not something I like to do very often . . . especially as my memory of that event is far different than some of the more exotically explicit accounts of the fire. But no matter. As we all know, history is sometimes a rather conclusive social 'science' drawn from the more elusive and inconclusive art of memory, but the fragility of history never bothers me.
I enjoy the gentle smudging shadows of memory as much as I love the more distinct details of the everyday. Couldn't live without it. Certainly, these houses I passed yesterday made me smile, even laugh. I enjoyed walking through their backyards of memory as much I did traipsing through my own. I was grateful for their flights of fantasy, details remaindered from another age. I found their exuberant joy electrifying, as capable of sparking my own memory as wiping it clean.
Yesterday, no folk sat comfortably lined up on porches, flattening down the rattan chairs or opening up the wooden benches, but I can imagine that on hotter days folks do sit quietly with fans in their hands, sipping tall glasses of lemonade and passing through late afternoon on the gossamer wings of gossip. So imperfect, so impure, and so positively delightful.
But this day was a grey day, fiercely close, winter trying on spring and finding the fit a bit tight. Besides myself, the only other person moving on the street was a burly man in coveralls briskly changing the tire of a sunshine yellow Volkswagen convertible while his own even brighter yellow tow truck, large enough to winch a tractor trailer out of a ditch or up a cliff, occupied the whole center street. A young woman stood to one side, both hands stuffed into deep pockets. She offered no commentary but looked soberly on, patiently waiting for some sign from the sober silent man with the jack that her car would once again be whole and ready to rock and roll.
I wondered if that young girl was so confused by jacks and wrenches that the changing of a tire required calling in a tow truck large enough and heavy enough to lift a tractor trailer or if she just believed that tires were better changed by experts driving trucks large enough to consume two gallons of gas to drive the few miles from the service station to her car. The brave new world of instant and "free" road service, which is not really free. I'm afraid we all pay the rather high price of the increased pollution leaking from this inefficient use of energy.
No one stepped onto any porch; no one crossed the road. No one jogged on by, and I was happy to be alone, walking walking walking walking with my little dog Earnest by my side, past houses more than a century old painted jauntily, each smiling and each with an entrance raising a great shout of welcome, some making music and some with signs bidding entry to places where I would like to be. Poets places.
By early afternoon, broad icy winds had arrived to disabuse us all of the frilly silly notion that spring had come to stay. Temperatures dropped with lightning speed, and lashed by the wind, trees bent away from the bay. Ducks tucked themselves into their feathers and the geese just flew away. I, on the other hand, expanded into that stiff cold wind, gulped its great distance into my lungs and walked on past the great flocks of worm-footed coots and gulls lined up against the rocks.
In no time at all, I was out to sea.