There is a bluebird on the limb of a tree in a yard near a house that is painted fairy-tale yellow. Like a piece of the sky with a rise of dawn on its chest and a fiesta necklace.

I’ve walked these streets for twenty-seven years, and I’ve never seen a bluebird.

Not here.

Then here.

In the way of neighborhoods.


There is a lady on the downward slope, a cane in her grip, eyes creased into place. She wears salmon pants and a lilac jacket and exuberant lipstick. Hello, she says. Hello, I say. I tell her about yesterday’s bluebird.

A phenomenon.

News to be carried.


These streets are up and down, loop and bulge. They catch lightning in their trees, and hawks. They river when it’s raining.

I pass the country church and the barefoot girl, the trampoline and the side-yard bridge, the dog on the leash wearing shoes—little canvas tie-ons. I walk the history of the place this was—the ghost of the inn that was eminence here, the croquet lawns turned driveways. There had been pyrotechnic displays overhead and the march of a military band and wealth stuffed into Herring’s safes, but fires raged and years have passed and many live where few had been, though still, in May and September, on residual horse-show grounds, there is a parade of carriages, Clydesdales, jumper breeds; the smell of cracked hay; the past pressing in; and shortly after it all begins, the horse-show grounds go empty.

Then here.

Not here.

Where I go walking.


Deer in the bracelet cul-de-sacs. By the creek, a great blue heron. Irises like islands. The fluff of fox tail. The boulder of a turtle taking shelter. Curbside, Christmas Eve: luminaries—flames upon wicks inside white waxed bags, each spaced the proper distance and sand-weighted. And at particular hours, others like me: older women walking.

I slow for them.

They slow for me.

History becoming.


Pheasants in the streets, they tell me, about the years before I became a stranger here, and then, in time, a neighbor.

A mare in a barn, hungry for apples.

A backyard bird sanctuary stretching all the way to all the way.

Inn-ware found in gardens. Toilet parts. Cutlery.

They remember where and they remember when and then they remember their husbands. Men once here but not here, men no more in kitchens, bedrooms, gardens, men no more on the streets, men no more beside their wives, men like the luminaries gone dark in the dark of early Christmas morning. Flame, to wick, to sand.

I walk with the widows.

We walk. We carry.


Tonight, already dusk, I sit on the stoop of the house that was built on the land just beyond the land of the vanished inn, a hill away from the horse-show grounds, not far from the tree where the bluebird with the burst of dawn on its chest appeared and now, it seems, has vanished.

Out on the street, a red wagon rumbles; the children perched inside are waving. Out on the street, the boy balancing himself above a skateboard glide turns and sees me, lifts his hand. Miss Beth, Miss Beth, Miss Beth, he calls—a song that sings melancholic. Out on the street couples talk hush as they walk, and dogs mosey as they walk, and a widow I know by name and not by story walks alone and quickly.

And the sun burns down and the hour becomes shadows and the shadows become blurring.

This is the street where I live, just before me. This is the house where I live, just behind me. And in the house lives the man I love, the light of him, still burning. One of us will go first, I think, and then the other. Here. Not there. Unendurable. Enduring.

I slow for the hour.

I blur into the blurring.

Beth Kephart is a writer, teacher (at the University of Pennsylvania and through Juncture Workshops), and book artist. Her new books are Wife | Daughter | Self: A Memoir in Essays and We Are the Words: The Master Memoir Class. She can be found at and

Photo by Dinty W. Moore