She was standing at an intersection, facing west as I strode east. Indecision marked her face, speaking long before her words.
“Pardon me, can you tell me which direction is the University?”
I surprised myself by inviting her to walk with me to the beautiful University Gardens.
The morning air warmed rapidly, pungent with tar weed and anticipation as we walked and talked our way down the Expressway. We crossed Petaluma Hill Road so we could safely see the racing squads of oncoming autos exhausting their way to work.
She was a woman from the Southland, wishing to move north, nearer to memories of Sonoma State University from a quarter century before. But Mother is aging fast and daughter will soon give birth: she felt at a crossroads as we reached our intersection.
The view to the East is breathtaking from “Pet Hill” Road, golden fields dotted with ancient blue-green oaks, lying fallow, unfarmed and waiting to be sentenced to future subdivisions.
on that day all we only saw sunlit hills and the bright green trees, and I listened to her talk, asking questions here and there. She stretched to hear what she had to say about divorce, bad choices: life’s struggles, her hopes and dreams.
We cut into the campus, passed silent tennis courts on our way to the creek side nature trail where we dipped our toes in cold-running wonderful, and plucked sometimes ripe blackberries staining our fingers, clothing and lips.
She wanted to see the lakes and those ducks, before she returned to San Diego that evening, and on the way there I showed her the Bird and Butterfly Garden and the Burbank Native Plant Garden, both graced by platoons of bright white poppies nearly five feet tall, big as dinner plates with yolk-orange stamens: The Burbank Poppy, and they bowed their heads as we passed.
By the lakes I found a half shell from a finch hatchling. Impulsively, I gave it to her as a reminder of the little bird that shed its shell before it learned to fly.
She asked about me and I was finally able to answer that question in brief, concise words all that I was at that moment.
She became quiet, and then shyly asked me if I was an angel.
I laughed, saying I’d been called many nouns in my life, but no, I was no angel.
I led her back to Snyder Lane and pointed to her intersection two blocks west.
We hugged goodbye, exchanging names, not numbers.
I turned south and headed home.