The Japanese Maple has been here quite a bit longer than Peet’s Coffee. Its star shaped leaves harmonize so softly with water meandering through a twisted, old branch – rustle, trickle, rustle, trickle – that their duet is almost imperceptible. Pedestrians can easily stroll the covered sidewalk of this old-school strip mall (circa 1970 or earlier), past Beauty Salon and Hair Cuts and Dean’s Shoe Repair, without noticing the sound of a stream in the background or a gentle green rattle overhead.
As the wind moves the maple leaves, their shadows twinkle on the concrete, multiplying the effect of starlight. The water shines as it runs it’s looping course through the crevices of the log. Barely discernible against the grey and brown wood, sparrows twitch their feathers in the water’s cooling surface, pecking for gnats and pebbles just below.
Hopping through the sparking shadows, the sparrows are in charge here. Nothing bad has ever happened to them in their enchanted 100 square foot forest, where humans spill crumbs not merely daily but hourly, and the shady ground beneath the ferns and impatiens yields all sorts of crawling morsels. They hunt unchallenged among the stainless steel legs of patio chairs and tables, then disappear back to their watering hole for another dip in the stream.
A ruffian sparrow lands on the steel tension fence line a few feet away, twisting his head to size me up. His feathers, the color of wood and concrete, begin to rise, inflating his form until he is as round as a rock. After a moment, he shakes, deflating back to his proper shape. Completely at ease, he descends from the fence into the shadows at my feet, looking for something worth eating. Finding nothing there to interest him, he moves onward to more promising ground.