Unsuspecting: C- and I, on a long and rambling walk, often find ourselves inviting in unexpected engagements with surprising people. They emerge, as is said, as a knot from the woodwork. A shape in an old paneled wall; a face presses out from the flat space and speaks.
Remember the day we walked to the crowded beach. Lines of barbecues smoke-signaled the advent of well-done hamburgers. Families and children bird-called along strings of towels drying in the breeze. Lines of youth, bounding the beach with their drum beat feet; chasing balls, Frisbees, and the last rays of summer.
Unsuspicious: We find ourselves engaged in a conversation with a stranger clutching a worn notebook. An apprentice Palm Reader, she is here to practice her new skills, for free, with those willing to sit and hold hands. She materializes from the crowd as a red breasted robin among a cage of gray sparrows.
Remember her soft hands and long gray hair. Remember the waves right before she caught us: Our conversation must have been about love, or its loss. Her words to C-: You are an outspoken leader with a heart of deep compassion. Her words to me: You are inspired, with a creative heart and a soul that calls in the wounded birds.
Unassuming: We chitter, our own cage doors opened to possibility—and bewildering conversations. Chance meetings that widen windows and minds. Seagulls along the shore squawk for bread crumbs from toddlers. Salty, ocean waves are greedy for sharing. The scent of tomatoes, brown sugar, and smoke fills our nostrils.
Remember—as I did, later that evening, alone in my many windowed home—how deep the lines in my palms felt as I watched her walk away. How deep the sag of her left shoulder—against the height of the right. As she rose and limped away, two red feathers fell.