Sunday, September 10, 2017

A Woman and Her Dog

I want to write about these two characters I ran into today during a short walk about Federal Hill this afternoon. Unfortunately, I'm a bit fatigued after the more socially challenging (but fun) excursions of the day, but before I lose sight of their stories I will force the prose from the tired wrinkles of my brain space.

On the hunt for lunch, Rob and I meandered through the older neighborhoods of Federal Hill, bypassing the less walk-able highways to peruse the small time local diners. As I'm often apt to do, a gaggle of pigeons, some of the most bizarre bright red hues as opposed to the traditional turquoise and green sheen, commandeered my focus (alas, no long telephoto with which to capture them). Across the block, diagonally from us, a woman called out to us, "They come closer if you feed them". I smiled, responded something along the lines of "Dang, wish I had something for them", and after some slow walking (so as not to disturb the wandering flock), made my way to the opposite corner.

Two women were there, looking to be older, one possibly in her 50's or 60's, the other, comfortably perched in a classic folding lawn chair, appearing quite older. Oddly, the first lines of conversation dealt with age, with the younger of the two women asking me to guess the age of the other. Attempting to bow out of answering with "Eighteen with umpteen years experience", so came forth with the answer, "Ninety two! And you'd never know it with how active she is!".

Some idle banter ensued, topics of why we were carrying cameras and then about real estate and renovation work happening to the older homes in Federal Hill, but I was largely distracted by the pooch I somehow failed to initially notice, nearly blending in against the concrete and brick wall of the building on the corner. A very old dog, grey hair and very slow to move. Blue, I was told, was the pups name, and I spent some time doing as one does with such a calm and affectionate animal, showering her head with pets and scratches. The "Guard Dog of the block". Apparently now alone in that role - Not long ago, Blue had a partner in the "business" who, being of similar aged, passed away. So, now, Blue and the older woman sit and watch the block together. No leash or collar, certainly no energy to wander much beyond the stoop of the corner house. Just this old woman and her dog.

The younger of the two eventually left, other business to attend to, and as she did the pigeons made their way over to our side of the street. Hanging out, more or less. One of these pigeons quite complacently sat beside this woman in her chair, not alarmed in the least by the introduction of my proximity or Rob's. Certainly not alarmed by Blue. The old woman said, "I feel so bad when I see the birds out here all by themselves, so I like to come out and keep them company". I told her briefly about my habits of "greeting" my "Morning Bird Friends", the litany of pigeons who've taken up residence in my apartment complex, taking my time to say "Hello" (silly as that may be) and photograph them if I can. This triggered another musing about her own "Bird Friends", specifically one she sees every Sunday morning. "I'm not really a religious person at all, but I go to mass, and every time I do there's a pigeon I see perched in the rafters of the church, and he doesn't move all mass, but leaves as soon as it's over, and I don't see him again until the next Sunday".

Alas, our appetites getting the better of us, we bid her and Blue adieu and made our way to good, glorious food.

I found the idle interaction impact-full. The calmness of all parties, the woman, Blue, and the pigeons. And the narratives behind her interaction and observation of her Bird Friends especially. It may be selfishly motivated appreciation, I don't often encounter others who ascribe such depth of personality to animals with whom they can only ever, at best, communicate through body language (if even mutually understood). A cynic or realist would likely contest any sort of interaction as light High-Fantasy. However, I fail to see the harm in the indulgence of crafted narratives only ever acted upon in the form of continued observation. It's no different than traditional people-watching, and such anthropomorphism of our most vulnerable of animal friends, I think, does well to exercise engines of empathy we may collectively lack in the saturation of our social culture.

Might I implore everyone to, please, be sure to greet your Bird Friends. Every morning.