Blog: Point No Point

Pine Street Episode 103

The day Leo came home from the hospital, Franny and Allison settled him back into the basement apartment. It seemed a better place to recover than Franny’s small apartment, or perhaps part of her clung to her own need for an independent refuge.

Somehow, David had kept Precious. Franny’s landlord had run out of patience, perhaps, or the near-death experience on the street had spooked Franny. Leo wasn’t up to dog care yet, and Allison did not want Precious upstairs in the chaos of remodeling.

David’s smooth reassurances that he loved having the scruffy old dog with him, she reminded him of Marilyn, and of course Precious would be most comfortable in her old home, lulled Franny into agreeing to leave her there until Leo got stronger. Her apartment felt cleaner, quieter, and emptier without Precious.

But Franny spent much of her time with Leo, or working, and the guilt of not taking care of Precious as she’d promised Marilyn nagged less and less. Leo would insist he could take Precious back any time, and Franny would be about to agree. Then she’d catch a glimpse of Leo’s face when he thought she wasn’t looking, and it would seem suddenly gray with fatigue or pain. She’d reassure Leo that Precious was doing just fine, and he should take his time.

Time seemed in generous supply, now that Leo was home, and they all knew he would be okay. Afternoons lengthened, and daylight lingered until well after suppertime. Leo, Franny, and Allison would sit on the old green house’s porch in the evenings, wrapped in blankets if the wind blew, and watch the neighborhood’s life pulse around them. Sometimes David would walk Precious over, and join them, adding joy at Leo’s reunion with the dog, and tension to the atmosphere.

David’s apologies for hitting Leo with his Jeep had been profuse, and easily accepted by Leo himself. The others were more circumspect. They reserved judgment on whether David could have avoided the whole incident by driving more slowly, or more carefully, or not at all. Once or twice, somewhere deep in Franny’s guts, a twinge suggested David might have had a clear chance to avoid the accident and simply not taken it.

But she couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to hurt Leo, so she would shake the twinge away and try to be grateful that the outcome wasn’t worse.

Precious, when she saw the group on the porch, wiggled with delight and loved to snuggle in Leo’s lap, especially if he had a blanket on. He’d throw an edge of the blanket over the old dog, and she’d sigh with deep content.

One evening, warm and calm, with no one in blankets except Leo and Precious, as they all mused in silence about their internal worries and aspirations, Douglas returned to Pine Street.

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Peace and Love

July 7 – Ringo Starr’s birthday, and his annual birthday wish: at noon your time, wish everyone around you “peace and love.”

Needed now as much as it ever has been.

Pine Street Episode 102

Allison watched the black Jeep crawl up the street to the house that used to belong to Marilyn. She’d put a chair on the front porch, despite the wind-blown chill in the air, just to feel the newly-emerged sun on her face.

Summer was just around the corner, and Pine Street felt its nearness. Trees bloomed, tulips unfolded their petals, ants swarmed out of their underground dens, birds chirped their ancient stories of where to find the best seeds and grubs.

The front bumper of the Jeep still had that dent. The sight of it made Allison shiver inside her fleece jacket.

They’d come that close to losing Leo.

That day Franny returned, and Precious was nearly crushed, Leo knocked over by David’s Jeep.  Allison had heard about it all from Kassandra, the barista.

The news from Leo’s trip to the hospital. The broken rib that had grazed his spleen, the bleeding in his abdomen, the emergency surgery.

His long recovery, while the denizens of Pine Street pondered how close they’d come to life without Leo.

Kassandra considering never seeing him pass in front of the coffee shop again. He rarely came in, but he often stopped for conversations with her regular customers as they arrived or left. When those conversations ended, her customers smiled, heading into the rest of the day with something lighter about them.

Allison pondering the empty basement apartment, and having to sort through all Leo’s collected stuff, the coolers and totes full of mysterious bits and pieces, fasteners, caps, plugs, hooks,  and ephemera, and having to eat her meals alone, and tackling the rest of her remodel without Leo’s strong back, scattered attention, and willingness to try anything.

Douglas, away in the big city dealing with his own illness and treatment, wondering if his son David would be the cause of the biggest loss Pine Street would see since Marilyn’s death.

David himself, planning the rehabilitation of his reputation, if the worst happened.

Precious the dog, puzzling over why her tail seemed less likely to wag itself during those days staying with David in Marilyn’s old house, her own old house, she vaguely recalled, although all its smells had changed.

And Franny, marveling at the ways in which Leo felt essential to her, already, and terrified that he would be taken from her before she could tell him that.

Leo was the only one of them who knew, even when his recovery was at its most fragile, knew without a doubt in his mind that he would always come back to Pine Street.

Independence day and hope

As we in the U.S. celebrated the anniversary of adopting the Declaration of Independence from the government of King George III of Great Britain, I read these words from David Cole, national legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union. They resonated with the original “just causes” listed in the Declaration, and they resonated with so much of what we are experiencing now. I share them here, one day late, to revisit the value of hope in action.

“I fundamentally believe that hope is more the consequence of action than its cause… It seems to me you have two choices in this life, you can be a fatalistic spectator, or you can engage and produce hope. If those are the two choices, there is really only one choice.”

(From the July 2, 2018 New York Times magazine article by Joel Lovell:

Pine Street Episode 101

Life doesn’t sort itself neatly into episodes, or in multiples of ten. This is our one-hundred and first visit to Pine Street, occurring somewhere around a year and a half since our first day there, hanging out with Franny in her new, nearly-bare apartment. The lives of the denizens of Pine Street should pause, so they can have a moment to reflect, and make some important choices about how to move forward.

But the pauses life sends do not always correspond with our wishes for the means of delivery. We hope they will come as beautiful vacations to tropical beaches, or lovely escapes to snowed-in yet cozy mountain cabins, or well-earned prizes for our creative contributions.

The wisdom of the universe finds that these carefully constructed pauses miss the mark. We do not take advantage of them as we ought. We  remove ourselves from the gorgeous beach with our smart phones, or we spend our time in the cabin worried about the work we are missing, or we undermine our own accomplishments with doubt about whether we truly deserve them.

So, life sends us other opportunities for reflection.

This one came to Leo and Franny in the form of a big black Jeep, a collision, and a disappearing dog.

It was delivered by the least likely person, the person who the Pine Street regulars all reacted to with unease, at best, and suspicion, at worst.

David had knocked Leo over, spirited Precious away from the scene, and left Franny angrily wondering what he was up to, what he wanted from her. Did David want her to chase after Precious so he could draw her further into whatever he was up to, taking over Marilyn’s house? Or was he simply trying to work his way deeper into the neighborhood fabric of Pine Street?

At the same time, watching the ambulance drive Leo away, Franny sensed the invitation life had offered to reflect on her choices.

Before the collision, kissing Leo had sent a warm glow into the space around her heart, a space that had closed itself off since her divorce, a space that had held nothing but cold, damp, and mold. Something alive woke up in that space during their embrace, like a cat uncoiling from a nap, stretching, yawning, wondering why its dish was empty, when it was so, so hungry.

Life, like a cat asking for breakfast, invited Franny to choose to fill the empty spot around her heart with warm nourishment.

This time, she wanted to respond. But first, she had to find Precious.

Pine Street Episode 100

“It’s okay, I’ve got her.” David held onto Precious as best he could. The scruffy little dog, all the itchiness returning to her toes, noes, and, weirdly, somewhere deep in her intuition, wriggled and squirmed.

“Thank you,” Franny said. “I’ll take her.”

“No, you have your hands full with that gallant gentleman who tried to save her.” David turned to keep Precious away from Franny’s reaching hands. “I’ll take care of the dog until you’re ready.”

I’m ready now, Franny thought, isn’t that what I just told you? As she opened her mouth to make this point, Leo moaned.

She knelt back down beside him. “It’s okay. The ambulance is on it’s way.”

“I don’t need an ambulance,” Leo said, trying to sit up. “I’m fine. I’ll be fine, anyway. What happened?”

“Just rest there, Leo. The EMT’s will assess you. They’ll decide if you’re fine or not.”

“Franny. Precious,” Leo mumbled.

“She’s fine, Leo. Precious is just fine. I’m going to take her home as soon as the EMT’s are here.” Franny stood to take her dog back from David as the ambulance arrived, and her attention turned back to Leo.

One of the EMT’s knelt next to Leo, asking questions in a soft, reassuring voice.

The other asked Franny for a run-down of what happened. She explained how Precious’s leash had slipped out of her hand when the dog ran across the street after something. How the Jeep had been moving, probably too fast, the driver unable to either see the dog or stop in time.

How Leo had dashed out into the road to save Precious.

How at that moment, a car going the other way blocked Franny’s view, so she wasn’t sure what had happened in the collision.

How, by the time she got there, the Jeep’s driver had scooped up the dog, and Leo was laying, semi-conscious, in the road.

How she hadn’t seen any blood. How Leo had answered her, after a moment or two, she couldn’t be sure how long he’d been out.

How the driver of the Jeep, a new neighbor named David, had now disappeared with her dog.

What the sun thinks of us

It is the end of the day of summer solstice. The light of the sun lingers, dawdles as long as it will all year, before setting gently in the northwest sky.

Tomorrow, the path of the earth’s rotation shifts toward winter.

I imagine the sun watching us, we humans. I imagine it sees us all of a piece.

In the sun’s gaze, we are not bound by borders. We are not spun into castes, not made superior by the places of our birth or the piles of objects we own.

The sun sees us in our glorious colors from pale blue-white to richest ebony, in our frantic activities, in our periods of playfulness and rest. It sees us celebrate its warmth, harvest its energy. It watches us as we wander this blue sphere, pursuing our dreams.

We gaze at the sun, the moon, the stars, and we see beauty. We gaze at the trees, each unique, each finding its way toward the sky, and we see beauty.

Why, then, can we not see the beauty in one another?

No human being is illegal. No family seeking a better life is an enemy. No child should be incarcerated. No system should forcibly separate families. No arbitrary border should be more important than our care for one another.

Humans have always wandered, the sun has always watched, and perhaps its lingering light this evening points us toward a shift of our own. Perhaps our path, starting tomorrow, will be different.