The Bakery Has Always Been a Bakery

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“The bakery has always been a bakery, and the movie theater has always been a movie theater,” the man says to his son as they walk past my table.

Uncanny, the way thoughts swirl in the atmosphere among us. I was just thinking that!

Today, I’m walking grateful. We seem to have emerged from almost nine months of endless health challenges. The last, in the midst of surgeries and infections and trying to heal, was the startling finding on a mammogram that I have “anomalies.” After every test looked iffy, I had a large surgical biopsy which extended my months of not being able to do much. Thankfully, the results were not cancer.

I walked a loop in our small downtown. I always appreciate that route. But this morning I met one of the gardeners. An old gentleman stood on the path smoking his pipe and seemed to just be waiting to chat. We talked hedges, trimming and the scent welling up from the center of his striped rose. He told me when to trim, how to trim, and that the roses just keep coming if you take the time to prune them back.

“To the fifth leaf! Don’t forget that part.”

As I walked away, I thought about the people behind the shrubs and tidy porches. I so appreciate the hands that trim and weed. With waterfront property, these folks may be vice presidents or who knows what–but I don’t really care. I appreciate their tending, and when we meet, their neighborly kindness, the small consistencies. One of those plots belongs to the chiropractor who took care of my back last spring when it was wrenched. His wife is out pulling the morning glory from her irises lest they be strangled.

“It’s an ongoing job!” she says, pausing to greet me.

At Green Lake, there was an espresso cart for years with quite a character of an owner.  I’d buy a small dopio espresso in a Dixie cup, strap on my skates and go. When the city made it too frustrating for him to stay, he left. He has no idea how much I still miss that cart and that presence. We talked weather and food, and about our teens with attitude; nothing deep. He used to give free cocoa to the cast of characters who hang out there because they have nowhere else to go: The truly ancient woman in curlers and a housecoat with her walker, the somewhat scary anarchist singing dude, the skateboarders with puppies looking for a dog bone and a moment to stand still.

That’s all gone, and there’s just empty sidewalk. The same homeless folks mill about the edges, but with nowhere to gather. The lady in curlers isn’t visible and the dogs must miss the bones she gave out. Like me, they probably pause slightly at the spot each lap.

I don’t think about my garden, my writing, or my presence as being sustenance for someone else beyond my immediate circle. But I do see strangers walking or biking by our corner regularly. They may be detouring to our cul de sac for a glimpse of that annoying shrub I trimmed, watered and fed again this week because it was getting whimpy on the ends. They may like our ping pong and the cat who rolls on the grass waiting to be scratched. They might know about rare ephemerals and appreciate my small display by the garage. Or maybe just seeing that someone cares enough to celebrate and tend their small plot gives them a sense of order and peace, as it does me.

We may be a fixture in someone’s world without even knowing it.

The man who walked by me a moment ago was so glad the bakery is still here, and the movie theater is still here. Folks are still collecting cookie jars in one, and giving out free popcorn to kids on Tuesdays in the other. I recognize those theater workers when they pass on the street, even though I’m sure they do not recognize me.

My children have grown up with these touchstones. I walked past them without seeing so often when not feeling well this winter. After being given a reprieve from the possibility of chemo and a more serious diagnosis, I’m celebrating the small places I can rely on, and thinking that others may be celebrating my continuing presence and well-being.

I have no title, and you may have no title, but we are all precious in the landscape and can with care and tending offer a little burnish to our corner of the map that might lift another soul. That is something to celebrate, even if we may not ever fully know the particulars.

Image Credit:  Raw (flickr) + Design (Tina Francis)

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