On sunny days the marshes, levees and bay are visible from the trail in a few places at least, though the walks seldom start before nine. The boy has to be fed and chaperoned to school first, and the dog’s sniffing around along the way slows things to a crawl. We often stop at the reservoir above the college, too, to see if it is ducks and turtles, or still otters.
I am always a little relieved when the ducks and turtles come back, since it means the otters have had their fill and moved away. But the otters are certainly the smartest ones in the system, and real charmers, too, as they dive and breach on the hunt and in play, all the while eyeballing the middle-aged featherless biped in the floppy leather hat, and his shaggy-haired four-legged companion.
Walking with a stick helps, since I can plant its tip firmly in the muck at the bottom of puddles in the narrows, and lean on it to skirt more confidently around them.
“Yucca,” I say, when the old woman asks. “I have them made for me in Santa Fe by a guy who harvests it sustainably.”
“How’s the store?” she asks from behind her mask.
“Quiet. You?” I ask from behind mine.
“Just got back from Mexico. I was doing an art residency there.”
“I guess,” she demurs. “No, yeah, it was. I’m glad to be back though.”
“Well, good to see you.”
And on into the quiet we go.