Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Buddha and the Tree Spirit

Hawthorne District. Very granola, earthy, colourful. A garden, everyone a flower, some showy, some not. The sidewalks are crowded with humanity, the air redolent with the scents of food and people. Here I sit, alone by choice, last table, my back to the wall of the building, warmed by the heat it radiates. Dinner a romaine salad with curried chicken breast, almonds, dried cranberries, balsamic viniagrette, heavy on the rosemary. Terminator Stout, dark microbrew with a thick carmel-coloured head: I lick off the moustache after each swallow. Moleskine journal in hand, today a sepia ink, jotting down impressions, observations. A couple walks by, holding hands. Brightly coloured hair, tattoos, piercings, clunky Doc Martins. They are both wearing skirts: he has black leggings underneath, covering his knees. Next a couple, mid-thirties. He: Columbia Sportswear, Birkenstocks, pushing the stroller full of bright-eyed toddler. She: LL Bean, ancient denim jacket, Sketchers on her feet. They take the table next to mine, phone rings, the woman answers, stands up, walks to the edge of the sidewalk. She is a lawyer, or in the legal field, she speaks of briefs and cases and files. Flock of teenagers pass: skinny girls with hip-huggers, flashing belly-button piercings and tattoos around their ankles; lank-haired boys with knee-length baggy shorts and colourful t-shirts referencing some aspect of Pop-culture foreign to me. Young woman steps forward from the shelter of the building, into the center of the corner. Her voice soars: she sings opera, I recognize the aria "Un bel dì" from Madama Butterfly. A man limps toward me, holding a cane in his good hand, the other arm held close to his body. He stops and someone pushes past, jostling him nearly into the street. He hunches, tucks the cane under his good arm, pulls a bottle of water from under the other. He fumbles in his fanny-pack, I see two vials of medication. More people push past, jostling him some more. Observer role is broken, I rise, approach him. "May I help you?" I ask. "No," he grumbles. I move to stand behind him, waiting, putting myself between him and the foot-traffic pushing his way. More people press by, giving me frustrated looks for blocking their paths. They spill over onto the street to pass. I hear his fanny-pack zipper, turn around to look at him. He stuffs the bottle of water back under his bad arm, nods at me, and cane in hand, continues his slow progress down the street. As I watch, three others jostle him. How discouraging. Where are we going in such a hurry, that we cannot stop to help another? Returning to my table, I jot a few more notes, then close up the journal, snapping the elastic around it. Buddha and the Tree Spirit, Hawthorne District, Portland OR (c) KR SilkenvoiceStrolling west along the street until I reach Bread and Ink, then turning down the side street. Lovely neighborhood of old craftsman-style homes. Walking to my car I pass the head of Buddha, resting under a tree. A spontaneous altar has grown up here, an encouraging sign of community that lifts my spirits. As does the face they've made on the tree. Buddha and the Tree Spirit. The juxtaposition of reverence and whimsy pleases me. Yes. In this moment, Life is beautiful.

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