Wednesday, August 29, 2007

A Walk With The Peacocks

It's 1994. I have no money, no solid job, no home, no relationship, having just ended a terrible engagement with Mr. Psycho. As I am looking for employment, my Uncle's girlfriend (now his wife, Honeysuckle) let's me take over her apartment. This is fortunate because all I have is my cat, my 1988 Honda Civic wagon, my childhood bed, and a small amount of work clothes. I am so grateful for Honeysuckle's kindness (and her television). I may not have much, I tell myself, but I have my health, a loving cat, a roof over my head, and transportation.

Although the apartment complex is nice, there are a few oddities. There is a lot of noise in the surrounding trees ... cats constantly meowing and I never see them. The weird thing is that my cat is terrified by the noise (not a typical reaction from one cat to another). Another odd thing - within a week of living in the apartment, I had a visitor (a strange visitor). An older, self-proclaimed "biker" came to my apartment and asked for MY HAND IN MARRIAGE - stranger still, he had a ring. I kindly declined and we remained friendly towards each other. About two months later all of my underwear went missing from a community room washing machine. I assume (maybe incorrectly) that Biker Man had them strung up in his apartment (just a suspicion that I did not wish to pursue).

Back to the meowing ... so much noise! I am thinking that this apartment may not be the paradise I am trying to make it. With the little bit of money I make working part-time through a temp agency as I look for full time work, I only have $10/week for food. Therefore, I live solely on canned tuna and potatoes. Man, am I hungry! Due to the recession (at the time), it is hard to find work in my field (architecture). My weight drops to 105 lbs. (note: I am 5'-6"). I look hungry. To take my mind off of my growling stomach, I begin taking long walks on the quiet suburban road behind my apartment building. I find many surprises along the way. The meowing is incessant and blocks out pretty much all other noise. Following the nicely landscaped road, I pass many glamorous new neighborhoods. As I walk I approach a single, large, abandoned two-story house on what looks like 3-4 acres. The house is majestic and I spend a little time admiring it. This is when I notice several small, black and white spotted bunnies peacefully eating grass on the property. They look like pets! Then a cat comes up behind me and scares me by meowing loudly. I turned around to face this audacious cat, and I am shocked to see a PEACOCK! Understand that I am living in an apartment complex in Tampa, Florida, right off of a major road (Dale Mabry). Apparently I surprise the peacock because it gives me an impressive display of its plumage. I stand in awe as five other peacocks meander across the street, not even remotely concerned by the cars slowly trying to pass by.

Then I look around me. I watch as one peacock follows behind a man as he mows the lawn. I see several perched in people's trees and there is one comfortably sitting on top of a Toyota sedan in a driveway. Here is what I found out: The former owners of the majestic, abandoned house once owned all of the surrounding land - roughly 70 acres. Slowly, the owners sold off the land to the now-existing "glamourous neighborhoods". The wealthy land owners had a variety of pets and exotic animals. Upon vacating the property, the owners apparently decided to "free" the rabbits, dogs, cats, and peacocks so they could continue to thrive in what was always their home. It makes a great story.

My life did not get easier while I lived in the apartment, but being surrounded by surprising beauty and animals provided me with a certain "calm." Who else do you know that can say, "I took many walks with the peacocks?"