Dead peacock by the side of the road. Lady cutting off it's tail feathers. In front of the most awesome house on all of Tropical Trail. And there are quite a few awesome houses on Tropical Trail. And no. No photo. Even though I thought at first, "Oh my god, she's killed a peacock to take it's feathers!"
Today has been a long day. I have been practicing my "nice".
Who knows when you might need to apply a little Nice? Especially if you haven't been using it much.
I went to 3 different stores. I tried on run shoes.
Shoes are a particular ordeal. Just try finding women's Nikes in size 11 neutral, not too cushy, not too heavy, not too light, with tread that will work on trails. The poor clerks, going back and forth. But I practiced my nice. And in spite of coming up empty, counted it a victory, in the Nice department, at least. Every one of them said some version of, "It's been a real pleasure!" even as I departed without purchase. As a rule, clerks don't say that to middle aged women. No one does.
Mostly people don't speak at all. I normally spend my day entirely invisible.
So mostly I don't bother practicing my Nice.
People don't take time to recognize Nice anymore anyway, let alone show appreciation for it. Mostly they just want you to get out of their way.
A week ago, I set out to ride in the cold, talking to myself so the inner weasel wouldn't have her way. Thinking thoughts like, you only have to stick it out for an hour, but yes, you have to go out. I was mentally not in a place of practicing Nice. I was pretty much on the on the edge of not so nice. In other words, just get out of my way, OK?
I made it maybe two miles and some old guy fell into the ditch across the road. Just pitched off the sidewalk and rolled out of sight. Damn. Better stop. How annoying.
I crossed the road right in front of two cars, dumping my bike in the grass. A woman with a little girl stopped her van and jumped out. Even as the poor old guy struggled to get himself up, the woman and I both said - "Don't get up! We'll call the paramedics." I guess because the guy was old. If he'd been younger and able to jump up faster maybe nothing would have been said, and we would have simply helped him up.
He was laying face down, half in the flowing water. Fairly cold out so must have been uncomfortable. I waded in and put my hand on his shoulder, mostly to keep him from rolling further down the bank into the ditch, and also because we had been taught Don't Move.
In true grumpy old man style, he yelled, "Fine! You don't have to help me up, but at least stop holding me down!"
I was mortified! WAS I holding him down??? Was I? Maybe a little. Sort of. Mostly I thought I was helping keep him from deeper water. And keeping him from struggling and maybe hurting himself. And.. Oh my god, I was sort of holding him down.
Because we were right across the street from the fire station, the paramedics were there in 2 minutes and basically they just stood there watching, while he struggled and struggled and finally got himself upright.
I wasn't too happy to see them handle it that way. I could have just stood there. But no, I didn't just stand there. I "helped".
Was I a holder-downer??? Just because the guy was old? It is absolutely true that he was so shaky, it really seemed as if he might topple over and splash down into even deeper water. But then, encouraging someone to lay face down in a ditch on a cold day seems, well... seems pretty mean.
You can not assume someone is helpless just because he has gray hair, a hearing aide, and there is blood running down his face. How old is too old? 80? 90? 102? After all, he was out walking, not home on the couch. Just as I plan to be someday.
So anyway, I've been trying to be a little nicer this week. Non judgmental. Hold nobody down. Try to just give everyone an automatic break. Ask questions first, shoot (photos) later.
Tropical Trail in winter. Just spectacular. Well, it is spectacular all times of year, but in winter there is a clarity of light that you just don't get in the summer humidity.
So, after talking to the lady snipping tail feathers off a peacock with her garden loppers, and deciding not to photograph her grisly enterprise, I was determined to find somewhere along the way for a photo. Anywhere would do, just so I wouldn't forget this spectacular day.
Merritt Island, across from Mathers Bridge.
OK, so guy in a ditch. Leads to deciding to be nicer. Don't make assumptions because of age, gender, or strangeness of action. Leads to happier store clerks, more pleasant line time, and meeting the lady who lives in the most beautiful house anywhere around, who also happened to be lopping the tail off a dead peacock.
(Honest to god, they must have modeled the HGTV Merrit Island Dream home after her house. Same style. Only hers is better, bigger, more beautiful, and duh - has peacocks.)
I know I have pictures somewhere of one of the peacocks from a few years ago.
See, even the gate is beautiful.
Not to mention the peacock.
Here it is. Taken in July, 2010. On the gate of that particular house. As a matter of fact I think this was shortly after a friend of Popeye's swerved to miss a pea hen and broke the fork of his bike in half.
Here's the thing. It's amazing there are peacocks left on Tropical Trail. They strut wherever they please. They just don't get it, no matter how much you yell or lay on the horn. Don't count on them moving. They won't. If you are on a bike, you better go around. If you don't have a conscience and go ahead and slam into one with your car, you better have insurance.
Someone somewhere probably has a fair sized dent after yesterday.
I guess I never gave it a thought before. Only stopped to admire how beautiful the huge males are dragging around their amazing five foot tail feathers. Never gave a thought to how bulky/heavy they might be. Not until somehow I found myself at the side of the road offering to help a tail-lopping lady heft a dead bird onto a bed sheet for burial.
Before I go, curiosity gets the better of me. "I get that you don't want a thirty pound bird rotting in your yard, or the local flock of buzzards out there pulling it apart. But why cut off the tail? Do you keep the feathers?"
(Seems a grisly idea to me, but then they are so beautiful it also seems a waste to just bury them.)
"Well," says Lopper Lady, "this isn't the first peacock I've had to bury. I just can't dig a hole big enough to include their tails."
"Take some if you want," she says, pointing to the pile of feathers.
I look down. It's quite a pile. I picture riding home with a couple of five foot peacock feathers sticking out of my shirt. There's no doubt they'd be beautiful somewhere in my island-blue house, but also sad.
I decline the feathers. Partly out of inconvenience and partly out of respect for the dead. And also out of respect for the dead, I resist taking a picture of the whole scene. Although, I admit it was the most interesting thing I'd seen all day.
Before getting back on the road, I complimented her on her beautiful house.
"Thank you, I'll tell my husband. It's his design. And thank you for stopping. Not one other person even slowed down."
Back on the road again. So there you go. I can be nice. And helpful. Without a feather or photo to show for it. And if I see you lying in a ditch, I might be curious enough to ask what the heck you're doing there, but I won't hold you down, I promise.