There are stories to be found everywhere if we take a moment to observe their subtle, and at times, not so subtle signs. Lately I had been too self-absorbed to really let my surroundings talk to me. But, I am fortunate to have been blessed with a patient guide named Yogi who has used needing four to five walks a day as his clever guise.

We both have been grieving the loss of his brother from another mother, Rowdy, who passed away shortly after my move to Fresno. I thought the special attention of the walks would be good for Yogi, Yogi knew getting out of myself would be good for me.

I am living in a large square of duplexes, some larger than others, but still they all look the same. They are all cut from the same cookie-cutter and make me ache for my home on Page. We are squared in by wrought iron fencing and impressive gates, surrounded by many tall pine trees.

At first, I saw nothing but the sidewalk before me, stopping as Yogi investigated a tempting smell. In the morning, we hit the streets at about six, and follow a pretty normal schedule of noonish, eveninish and getting-sort-of-darkish. Unlike Yogi, who noticed everything, I continued to do my walks with tunnel vision, as something I needed to do but certainly there was nothing for me in these walks. Right.

The awareness began slowly like a grand symphony grabs your attention with a crescendo of soft notes before the music grabs hold of you and you are lost for the duration. One morning I noticed how serenely quiet it was, not even a sound coming from cars on the main road which usually was a constant drum roll. Pausing for just that moment seemed to fine tune my senses. I saw things that must have been there before but I had never seen. Following Yogi’s gentle tug as he leads the way I have learned that there is always more than meets the eye.

I noticed the corner two story duplex had hung sheer lace drapes over its blinds, and had an array of potted plants not only on its porch but on either side of its garage door. Someone had strived to make their rental look like home. I began to notice people’s welcome mats, some colorful, some whimsical, making it easier for me to imagine who might live behind the door. Another thing about the welcome mats was the shoes. Sometimes there were muddied clogs, tennis shoes, one time just one shoe.

Some porches had baseball bats leaning against the wall. The complex is so quiet you would never know there were children, but now I looked for traces of children . I noticed a skateboard by a fence, wet swim trunks tossed over a bench, colorful balls on front lawns tempted Yogi. But he refrained.

One duplex in the center row now always makes me smile. I would like to meet them, but it is hard to do that when you never see them. On their front yard is a ceramic black cat that looks ready to pounce, a skeleton seems to be peeking through the front window, and a witch is perched to take flight. I wonder what their place is like at Halloween. Yogi barking at dogs behind fences gives me pretty good clues who has dogs. One day a garage door was open and I saw a young man polishing his motorcycle. I threw caution to the wind and said, “Nice bike”. He smiled and said, “Thanks, nice dog”. Open garage doors have become good story tellers, some garages pristine, some jammed to the roof. Childrens bikes, wreaths and decorations were stored, and there were some of the most elaborate tool chests I have ever seen.

One day Yogi and I were taking our mid-day walk, and a woman walked out her front door and froze, looking shocked to see a person I imagine. Then we looked at the car slowly driving past, and I said now that is something you do not see every day. On the top of the hood were two long white trash bags. An interesting way to get rid of a body, I commented

 She laughed and said, “Oh, lots of people do that. It is their garbage. They do not want to put it in their car, and they are too lazy to walk to the dumpster.”

Now dumpsters are a story in themselves, the question is proximity. For the complex there are only two large dumpsters, hidden by an ivy-covered fence. One is right across the street from me. Convenient but hardly a garden view. And those large open dumpsters can be problematic.

One evening Yogi and I were heading home on our normal route when I felt something run into my leg, and I screamed. I looked down. It was a rat. Yogi, my knight in shining armor, quickly handled the problem with a quick grab, shake, and drop.

It has only been two months since I moved into The Commons, and I am sure there is much to learn. I finally met a friend, and she agrees it is like people are hiding, but it is really quiet here. Ah, but I think maybe some changes are coming. A moving truck came the other day down the street towards the far gate duplex. I saw a teenager carrying a guitar, and I heard some giggles. Right out on the street. Giggles! What will the neighbors say? All I know is Yogi and I will be glad to hear it.