It's an evening in October and my husband and I have just returned home from a brief shopping excursion to find warm, comfortable clothes at the discount store. We parked in the clean and strangely quiet underground parking ramp of the library, then rode the elevator up, before making our way outside and onto the streets of downtown Minneapolis.
As we walked, we found ourselves easily transported to the streets of Rome--caused by an equal combination of old buildings mixed with the warm smell of piss and sewage drifting up from whatever worlds exist under these roads. Being Sunday, the streets were quiet save for a few scattered wanderers and the 4 policemen checking the pulse of a man passed out in a flower bed near the corner of 5th and Nicollet. Our memories of narrow sidewalks and Roman fountains clashed with the newness of black tarred streets and shiny architecture reaching into the blue sky of this American city, but it was the smell that held our false Italy safe from interruption, both to and from the library parking ramp.
I live in the city, but I take shelter in an old house at the edge of the woods--a house that is covered in a skin of ivy the color of a ripe pomegranate, heavy with red, deep purples, and fiery gold. What is left of green is not the same as summer's, but has turned so dark that it nears translucence.
From the inside, there are deep shadows that run the lengths of every room. And today, even with the windows open to let in the warm breeze, it remains cool. We have blinds, but never need to use them, as our windows are covered in ivy, too. The light from outside has only recently turned from glowing green to a lucent scarlet. Viscosa, our little cat, hasn't left the windowsill since the transformation took place.
If it weren't for all this ivy, our house might border on painfully nondescript. But as it is, we live in a witch's cottage. The gnarled bark of old growth ivy twines it's way up the chimney, then cascades off the side door's overhang in red dripping tendrils--stretching for available space. The soft vines, with their tree frog fingers have attached themselves to the entire house, hiding the stucco, the windows, and threatening even the roof.
This house is a living thing. It is our sanctuary, but not only ours. The birds, a hundred of them, beat their wings like fragile moths as they hover then dive, breaking through the voracious growth that protects all who live here. Even at night, when I come to sit under the moon, I can hear their faint stirrings. It creates a tender effect, so achingly human. But soon, with colder weather, the leaves will drop. Our windows will fall bare to the low slanting winter light. For long months the ivy will remain dormant under ice and snow. And so, I can't help but wonder: where will the birds go? And how will it change me when they leave? I cannot explain this endless fascination that I feel towards not only these winged creatures, but the history of this house--this living, growing thing--protecting us in its fragile skin of color and tendriled vines.
The skin of others here.