Tower of Babel

springNow that Spring is here, I can finally take advantage of the back porch that comes with my new digs. It overlooks a rather large back yard now vibrant with many shades of green. It’s on the second level, so I can look down at the menagerie of items collected over the years by current and former residents of the duplex. There’s a small doll house, a turtle-shaped plastic pool, a birdhouse, a ramshackle shed, a tent-like net once used by a neighbor to practice her golf swing, a hammock stand with no hammock, and an assortment of lawn chairs. When I look straight ahead in the winter I can see the neighbors’ homes and the tops of tall buildings in downtown Raleigh. Now, however, I see green leaves and the lemur-like gymnastics of squirrels. It’s quite lovely, and what I learned earlier today as I sat on the porch sipping my morning coffee is that it’s also a Tower of Babel. There were the birds, of course, carrying on the way they do at the start of the day. But there was also the distant voice of a young child — too distant to tell what he was saying, but near enough to know that he had a lot to stay. The family members next door — parents, daughter, and granddaughter — are of Chinese descent. They, too have a lot to say, but apart from alternately nice and not-so-nice intonations, I never really know what it is. All in all, the mix of expressions — the bird song, the Chinese syncopations, and the foreign language that toddlers speak — made me feel like my back porch was very much at the hub of a busy world.

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