The other day when I was walking, I ran into the Sheik, just as he was about to take the path through the woods that leads to his brother's house. Again, he asked me where I'd been and was I okay? I assured him that I was and he told me that Ms. Liola was worried about me.
"I'll take her some eggs," I said, and he went down his woods path and I headed towards mine.
Ms. Liola, as I have said before, is an older lady although when I say "older" I really have no idea. She could be younger than I am or twenty years my senior. I just can't tell. But she has some definite physical disabilities and moves as slowly as I probably will be in about five years. She lives in a single-wide trailer, tucked longways into a tidy yard and I met her as I walked when she was out working in her yard and we have become, if not friends, good acquaintances and when she does not see me, she worries. I have taken to walking a different route to add a little distance to my walk and we rarely see each other these days and I hate to think that she's worried about me.
So this afternoon, after I got home from a lovely and lively time with Lily and Gibson, I took the trash and recycle and then drove over to her house. The Sheik was actually out in her yard, his elegant and sturdy silver-topped cane propped up against the steps of Ms. Liola's trailer and he was raking leaves for her. I know he's not related to her but I see him visiting her frequently. I think they take care of each other in some way, or at least, watch out for each other. I greeted him and said, "I brought eggs!" and he smiled and I walked up to the door after I got out of my car and Ms. Liola came out and we hugged and chatted. I showed her pictures of little August and she cooed over him and we talked about aches and pains and how hard it is to get going when we've been sitting down and how our yards look better than our houses because we love being outside and that kind of stuff. We laughed and talked and at one point she said, "If you ever need any help, you just let me know. You're such a sweet lady."
I was a bit stunned. What in the world could this lady help me with?
I'm still not sure what she meant. I told her, "Well, you're such a sweet lady too!" and we went on from there but I am still pondering this.
I gave her the eggs I brought and told her that when my greens really came in, I'd bring her some of those too, and she said, "You don't always have to be bringing me things. It's just good to see you."
And I was in the best mood when I left after hugging her again and I said good-bye to The Sheik as he hauled a trash can full of leaves to the burn pile and I came home and worked in my garden for awhile, hoeing between rows and then getting on my knees to pull the tiny weed sproutlings between my tender, baby plants, and then doing some raking myself and using those leaves for mulch.
I didn't get that much done, but enough to feel as if I'd made a start. And as Ms. Liola and I had agreed earlier, the getting started is always the hardest part, no matter what.
As I write this, I realize that Ms. Liola has no idea how much she does help me. It's hard to explain. She has taken me in as part of her world, her community. She has met Owen and Gibson and she watches over me, in a way, as I have said before. Her brother lives across the street from her and I see him fairly often too but I can tell that he is still very suspicious of me and has no need to try and get to know me. This may just be his way. I know that in his way, he too, watches over me, and he has taken the time before to warn me that I shouldn't walk in the woods and I've never been sure if he worries about me encountering a bear or someone who has come off the interstate to hide in those woods. Either way, I am grateful for his concern, but he doesn't make me feel the way Ms. Liola does.
Lloyd is a special place in some ways. There are people living here whose families have lived here for generations, African Americans and white folks. I have only lived here for eleven years but I lived down the road a few miles almost forty years ago and I remember the Sheik from back then. The lady who takes my water bill is the daughter of the woman who ran the general store when I lived here all those years ago whom I knew and had grown to sort of love when I was a young hippie mother. She herself lived in this house at one time.
Lloyd is not anything like a neighborhood you would find in a city or a town or many villages. And I learned a long time ago when I lived in a mostly African American neighborhood north of here that there is a sense of minding your own business which is very strong. And yet, that does not preclude the fact that if you need help, your neighbors are there for you and that you should be there for them and that people are keeping an eye on things. It is not an attitude of non-caring. It is a protective thing, I believe, which may perhaps spring from slavery itself when there was no such thing as a private life for people with dark skin. Perhaps this attitude is simply a remnant of the times when if you were black, your very life was not your own and therefore, your actions were not either and so, this ability to lead a life not under the eye of your owner (can you imagine that? being owned?) has left many people with the desire to keep to themselves. To not trust out of hand.
With freedom came privacy. Within privacy there can be freedom.
I think of when I lived in that other neighborhood and okay, a guy who lived in the house with my ex-husband and me was growing pot out behind all of our houses in a cow field that belonged to a rich guy who never walked that property and one day we woke up to discover that the pastures were being bush-hogged and that that pot patch was history. Turned out that our neighbors knew all about it and they laughed with us about it after it happened. They no more would have turned us in than they would have reported any other crime that wasn't hurting anyone. Many of them had to live in a sort of shady place outside the law themselves just to be able to scrape by.
When I lived in that house, I did a needlepoint of the Bob Dylan lyric, "To Live Outside The Law You Must Be Honest."
I understood what that meant and I still do.
I have no idea where I'm going with this. I guess it's just to say that I live in a small community which has unwritten laws which are strong and that when one of my neighbors accepts me, watches over me, I appreciate it more than can be said.
Okay. Enough of this ambling ramble. I'm going to go make some sort of curry.
And here's Bob.
Where are you tonight, Sweet Marie?
Right here in Lloyd, Bob. Right here.