In an attempt to follow the doctor's prescription, I was taking a not-terribly athletic walk around the block yesterday when I was brought gratefully to a halt by a cardinal sitting on top of a beach-umbrella pole across the street. It was a boy cardinal and, despite my proximity at 10 or 12 feet, it just sat on top of the pole, belting out impossibly-loud cardinal calls. I just stood, and rested and marveled.
A woman in a purple sun hat approached on the other side of the street. She was carrying a plant that seemed destined for a nearby garden across a small open greensward. She asked if I were wondering about the construction going on in the garden -- four embedded poles with several cross poles along the top, each hung with what looked like Tibetan prayer flags. I said no and told her what interested me was the cardinal and his adventures in calling, calling, calling.
Paige seemed to be around 60. She was shortish and had a pleasant face and as we fell into conversation, it became apparent she was part of the organic-farm effort where the new structure (a planned grape arbor, Paige told me) stood. After a while, the boy cardinal was replaced with a girl cardinal and the two of them darted from beach-pole top to nearby tree ... and talked to each other much as Paige and I talked to each other.
Paige said she lived in a nearby town, but hadn't spent much time there recently. Her aging mother was losing her mind to dementia and Paige represented about 20 hours a day of helper duty ... the other four hours taken up by other minders. I said it sounded like an exhausting schedule. Page didn't make much of it, but said that the recently-discovered tumor on her kidney worried her: An operation would incapacitate her for a while and she wasn't sure how she would care for her mother while she recuperated. On the other hand, the minders could now take care of her mom and her too, so there was some relief in hard times.
We talked about tomatoes and grapefruit and how the soil needed to be enriched in order for good produce to evolve. Paige was taking a course in soil nourishment. "The chemistry is sometimes a bit much, but it's worth it," she said.
It was only when we said our casual farewells after a pleasant talk that I thought to notice that Paige had a small beard on her chin. It was not as thick as a beard might be, but it was more than just a few whiskers. I had noticed it before, but didn't pay attention.
It didn't seem relevant.
And as we parted, it still didn't.
And I wondered, "When did that happen?" When did I stop noticing or caring about the obvious? It was just somehow curious.