Originally written October, 1998
My partner Jeanette and I live in condo, and we have a 9 year old little dog named Mitzy. Mitzy is a border collie / poodle mixed breed, which accounts for some distinguishing characteristics, including long legs, a long tail, short ears, and a longer snout than most poodles. Also, she never barks, something both breeds do, so I guess that trait got cancelled out. We love her very much, and she's very much our child.
Since we live in a condo, we have to take our dog for walks, something Mitzy doesn't mind at all. Jeanette walks her in the mornings, and I walk her at night. I always walk Mitzy after midnight, and usually after 1am, so the streets are deadly quiet, and I have a lot of time to think. Along my route, there are three houses of note - three houses that have really aroused my curiosity, all in different ways.
The first house I walk by must be owned by an artist. The house is set back from the street a bit, with a lot of coniferous trees and foliage in the front. The trees are all carefully trimmed, leaving natural canopies underneath. So what, you might be thinking... big deal. Well, there's a lot more to this house. Though the trees are all carefully trimmed, all of the natural canopies they form are at different heights, and some have different trim stiles... one tree is half trimmed at about 6 feet, the other half at about 4 feet, creating a natural wall.
The owners of that house also have put up a few bamboo dividers, hanging down from the trees. During the day, you can't quite figure out what the deal is, since they seem to serve no purpose. Only at night do you see that there's an artist at work, and every night, the display is different.
You can tell their purpose at night because there appears to be quite an elaborate lighting system throughout the trees. and each night, different lights are on, highlighting different parts of the trees, dividers and other props placed around the setting. That's right, I said props. There is an artist at work, because every night, there's different little items outside the house. They all seem to be natural materials for the most part, made out of wood, plants, or rock. The other night, several lights were turned on, the bamboo divider provided a cool shadow effect, and there were four balls, all made out of wood, and ranging from 1 foot diameter to about 4 inches diameter, placed at irregular intervals on the ground. Finishing the scene was an antique child's bench.
Every night I walk by there, there is a different display, and I for one appreciate this artist's gift to me, and others who pass by. I don't understand his or her art much, but each night, I try to get my meaning out of his display. Sometimes, I actually see something in the placement of the items, the different lighting effects, and the mood he or she has set. This person seems like a very caring, creative person, and walking by their house, I feel like I've been given a gift.
The same doesn't hold true with the next house I notice. This house isn't so happy. In fact, it's an old-age home. I don't often see anyone up and around by the time I walk by, but sometimes, I see some old codger sitting alone in the front area of the house (which looks like a smoking room). He's all alone, and he looks very sad. The whole house seems very glum and sad, in fact.
Whenever I walk by, this house seems run down, and not too friendly. The lawn is unkempt, the hedges need trimming, and the few times I see people, I never see smiles. It makes me sad that sometimes old folks are entirely abandoned by their kids, and then I start thinking about my parents.
My parents are about 7,000 kms away, and though they are both still relatively healthy and working, I still sometimes feel like I've abandoned them. My parents also recently separated, and I sometimes worry about them. I especially worry about my Dad, seeing as he is not in such good physical health, and he works too hard sometimes, putting a lot of physical strain on his body - but that's always been my Dad's style. He's a typical blue-collar type, used to getting up very early in the morning and going to work.
When I walk by the old-folks home, I worry about my parents when they get older. With me living so far away from them, if something happens, I can't be there right away. When they get older, and maybe need to be cared for, I won't be there, and I would have to rely on my brothers to do it. If they ever, heaven forbid, have to be infirmed, I might not even be able to afford it. Every time I walk by that house, I think about these things, and sometimes wonder if I made the right choice moving here to Vancouver. That house makes me very sad.
The last house I always notice is the strangest one. It's a house on a corner, and for some reason, I'm afraid to go near it. It's a big old 1920s style house, set back from the road a bit. It's distinguishing characteristic is a very unusual staircase, enclosed by walls on either side, that seems to go right up through the middle of the house. It's not steps in front of a house, or a veranda, or anything like that - it's a staircase cut right into the house, going up to the second floor.
But that isn't the spookiest part. The staircase is painted blood red, and at night, the house owners shine a powerful light right on the staircase, giving them an evil glow, surrounded by darkness. Every time I walk by that house, it gives me the chills, because it reminds me of a movie I saw when I was a kid - Amitiville Horror. I know - I'm an adult, and I shouldn't be freaked out by these things, but some nights, when it's dead calm outside, wind seems to only run through the trees on that property (I'm serious!) and I hear a lot of creaks and groans from that house when I walk near it, whereas everything else is silent.
And, there must be something strange about that house, because Mitzy won't go near it either. she walks in a guarded way when we pass that house on the other side of the street, staring at it intensely, ready to bolt at a moment's notice. I've read that dogs seem to have a sixth sense when it comes to things that are dangerous, and I really think she senses some real evil coming from that house.
This is the last house of note on my way back home. I walk the dog and get a wide range of emotions, each and every night. Then I head back, climb the stairs, and get ready for bed. It's quite an experience.