Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Self Conscious

(Great Blue Heron, click to enlarge)
Roger and I are the only people who walk our little road to the mailboxes. Everyone else either gets into their cars for the at-most half mile to retrieve it, or stops while driving to or from town. I tell you this because our walking makes us very visible. People begin to feel like they know us because they recognize us, but we are at a distinct disadvantage. We don't know them, and we don't recognize their cars. A woman stopped me the other day. She was driving up the road, I was on my way down to get the mail. She said, "Hey, I almost ran into you at Walmart this morning." I said, "That's impossible, I've never been in a Walmart store." She said, "Oh, I could have sworn it was you." Interesting. I would have sworn I'd never seen this woman before in my life. Yet, she recognizes me and imagines seeing me at Walmart.

One day, while we were walking along one of our favorite trails, we ran into an older couple. The woman said so warmly to us, "Hello." I smiled and said hello. She said, "We're your neighbors." I looked at her and thought she looked vaguely familiar, her husband more so. She said, "We see you walking to the mailboxes. I'd recognize your hair anywhere." Oh maybe that's it, my hair. I have long gray hair. Most older women don't do that. It's very witchy.

On Monday, a woman stopped her SUV on the road to talk to me. She smiled and said, "Hi, did I tell you we're building a house." I looked at her. She seemed a pleasant middle-aged woman. Her arms were still full of the mail she had just picked up. On the seat next to her were a receipt from the local hardware store and a half-dozen peach colored gladiolas. The flowers matched the color of her blouse, which had the smallest barely perceptible white polka dots. I looked at her and wondered if I had ever seen her before. I thought I must have. But then I immediately wondered why she was telling me about building a house. Is she new to the neighborhood? So I asked all the neighborly questions and learned that she is building a house nearby for her 24-year-old son who is still living at home. She laughs and says, "It's the only way to get him out of the house." I laugh too. We're having a neighborly conversation in the middle of the gravel road by our house. I have no idea who she is.

Roger and I often feel anonymous out here in the country, but our neighbors remind us that we have become familiar fixtures. I suspect we're like this heron, one among many, yet recognizable for the downy feather in our teeth.

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