we’re counting, the best I could say is I found myself captured
by an essay about a walk close to thirty years ago.
words were nothing too sensational. The magic was in the observations
made, the way the reader related to each thought, and the ability
demonstrated to connect a writer with an audience.
since, at times I feel like I’m trying to deliver a bit of similar
magic. (And, usually wonder if I’m even coming close enough to
consider it a success.)
give you an example of what this particular essay accomplished,
imagine any walk you’ve taken during your life. Perhaps it involved
a dirt country road or a paved city sidewalk. It could have taken
place during any of the seasons, along with extreme examples of
weather that such timing might offer.
begin to fill in some of the surroundings. Lighting at the end
of a driveway. Autumn leaves scattered on the ground along a path.
A flower growing between the cracks in a cement slab. The scents
from a lit fireplace… the sounds of a nearby river… dogs on a
porch… manicured hedges and wild forsythia.
other day, I was walking across our yard.
swirling combination of factors had crashed together—a bit of
dampness, the length of the grass, where I needed to go—and you
could clearly see my footprints in the yard. And as I stopped
and looked it over, I could begin to make out yesterday’s footprints
specific attention given for just a moment narrowed my focus.
I noticed deer tracks through the grass. Softer and less defined,
yes, but definitely there (and confirmed as deer by the marks
in a nearby patch of mud on a road).
been months since I’ve seen… actually, more than a year since
I’ve seen deer in my yard. But they are still visiting. And whether
I’m sipping on a coffee, washing dishes, or adjusting some shades
on the windows, I usually take a few moments each day from inside
to scan the yard for company.
that connect with you in some way?
spring, let’s say around mid-April, my mother and I have a conversation
about hummingbirds. It generally starts the same way, with thoughts
about sightings in recent days and getting feeders in place. But
for us, it’s more. It goes into memories of her sister. We talk
about places we’ve lived and the wildlife nearby. We share laughs
about my father, a man that is constantly in motion, and makes
both of us appear to be moving in reverse when it comes to tasks
like keeping the bird feeders ready and the gardens maintained.
such thoughts are special to you as well, but for many different
reasons. Maybe you’re thinking about birds and woodchucks and
more that make occasional appearances around your yard. Maybe
you spend time with family and friends outdoors. Maybe you just
really need to mow your own lawn.
of mine and I were talking the other day. We were spending a few
moments catching up while generally attempting to accomplish as
little as possible. He brought a minute or two of silence to an
end with a laugh. When I turned to look at him, he pointed to
what appeared to be an otter moving into some brush on the other
side of the road.
guy got me thinking,” he said, “about how you can leave your front
door to walk those thirty or forty yards to your mailbox, and
somehow you spot four or five different things that have real
meaning. Things most of us take for granted.”
right. I can take off on tangents from some of the simplest inspirations.
Even now, writing this, I’m thinking about how people take shortcuts
across the grass and wear in groves and paths that were never
formally designed to be there.
actually heard that some places—think new city parks or business
campuses—build the main outline of a property and then wait. After
a few months, or maybe a year, the preferences of pedestrian traffic
become easy to track. Worn grass here, packed dirt there. Once
outlined by the feet of those using the land, the planners go
back in and design more permanent walkways.
in my college days, we used to joke around with this expression:
Even Freud said sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.
does not come with some mystical and heavy significance. And yet,
there are mornings when I wonder about doing laundry, the rainwater
backing up in the gutters, and other assorted bits, and I consider
developing them. (And with some, I actually do.) But which ones
are just cigars? Which ones are paths yet to be recognized.
are leaves appearing on the ground. Near the trees where they
had been on branches the day before. The fall and collection on
the lawn began a few weeks ago, with one or two a day. Now each
morning seems to arrive with dozens. In a week or two, the tree
will only have a few remaining.
definitely notice it’s time to clean them up before they blow
into the drainage ditch and create a major project. I wonder if
I’ll notice anything else.