My neighbor sitting six feet from her mother in the front yard, the two of them talking by the hyacinths, so much longing to be closer between them I can feel it in my throat.
The day they taped off the playground and how quiet we were as we passed.
The toddler who’s always in the garden, asking his mother once about lettuce and repeating the word. He must have just learned it. Lettuce. Lettuce. Lettuce.
The house on the corner where the bulldog lives. We’ve taken to calling him Papa Beefy. On nice days he sits on his haunches in the sun and watches the world go by.
The giant stick Penny picks up in someone’s yard and the old woman who steps out of her house to marvel. She says she loves picking up sticks too, that she sometimes walks around the park across the street and makes little piles of them under the tree trunks.
Five deer grazing by the road. Penny has never seen a deer before. She stands very still and watches as they stroll up a hill, one of them looking back at her, sniffing.
The stuffed koala someone has placed in their window, and the stuffed bear that has fallen over a little so you can’t see its face. The stuffed snake that appears wrapped around the branch of a tree.
The day we see our friend running and how much I’ve missed her face and what a relief it is—almost unsettling—to see a friend’s face in person.
The chickens by the Montessori school, how Penny pushes her nose through the fence but never barks. The day ‘No Rent 2020’ appears on the sidewalk in colored chalk.
The day veggie plants crowd the driveway farm stand. Slicer tomatoes. Russian Kale. Perennials I don’t know the name of.
Our neighbor’s dog Jazzy, too old to walk much anymore, lying in the sun in the front yard. The way her tail still wags when we pass by with Penny.
The day the tulip bulbs break ground.
The day the tulip buds are nearly open.
The day the tulips are in full bloom.
The day the tulip petals fall.
The woman we pass as she folds laundry in her garage, the door open to let in fresh air. She holds her dog back by the collar and tells us she’s been unwell. That’s the word she used. Unwell. I assume it’s covid-19 but don’t know for sure. I bet she doesn’t know for sure either.
The kids on the trampoline, only their heads briefly visible over the fence as they jump, and the way they chatter to one another, the squeak of the springs.
The house we pass where there is a family on the big screen television waving and the man inside waving back.
It’s morning and then midday again and then evening and then morning again. Again. Again.
The day we go to campus to see the azaleas, how Penny loafs through the grass, her paws all wet. The grounds are beautiful. This is its best season. And yet—there is no one else around. The bitter right there beside the sweet.
Our neighbor—we have a lot of neighbors—who rushes out to see us as we pass. She tells us there’s a possum sleeping in the lawn mower bag in her garage, that its whining kept her up all night. My husband gets a rake and somehow uses it to carry the bag into the driveway. The possum emerges, dazed and a little unsteady. It blinks and then wanders off. We all keep six feet from one another until it’s over and then she—our neighbor, so happy, so relieved—puts a hand on my husband’s back. I flinch. It’s only an instant. It’s probably fine. And yet. I’m still thinking about it several blocks later. Not the possum but the hand.
A girl making a rocket ship out of cardboard in the driveway. We’re impressed by the working door, the little knob she’s drawn in, and the flames along the base. Her mother is helping her. She gives us a tired smile.
The day we see Jazzy’s owners across an intersection without Jazzy. Penny pulls for them anyway. They tell us they just got back from having Jazzy put down. My husband puts his hand on his heart. My eyes fill with tears. Sometimes I wish I could still hug people, my husband says, as we walk away.
Mounds of dirt appear in people’s driveway and then are gone. Their flowers flourish.
It’s a pinecone this time that Penny insists on carrying back to our house. When we call her name, she turns her head and we laugh. She looks like she’s smoking a cigar.
The time the sun is out. The time it is cloudy. The time it’s pouring rain so we zip Penny into her raincoat. The time it’s warm enough for sandals and the newness of feeling a breeze cross my foot.
Someone brewing beer in their garage, the air a humid malt cloud around them. When this is over we’ll have you over to try some, they say.
Hank’s owner—Hank the chihuahua mix with the pompom tail—who lets him play with Penny while we stand six feet apart on the sidewalk. When this is over we’ll have you over so they can run around together in the backyard, she says.
When this is over. Penny doesn’t know it ever began. Neither do the tulips, the grass, the woodpecker we hear but can’t see. It’s hard to reconcile. Everything has changed and yet so much remains the same.
My husband tells me that he’s trying to focus on what he can control. I think that sounds healthy. I think maybe I can do that too.
Here is Penny’s leash. Here is her harness. Here is the threshold and us three stepping through. Another walk, another day, again.
© Kristin Griffin
[This piece was selected by Jacky Taylor. Read Kristin’s interview]