The houses where I walk are built up on a hill that starts
out steep, so that, as I head down the sidewalk, the front lawns perch at
shoulder height. Roots of young trees
tentatively grasp the soil; while ancient oaks plunge thick arms deep into the earth,
tree and soil inextricably linked.
As I walk towards the railroad tracks, the hill grows less
steep. Hip-level, there’s a bed made of
old railroad ties. Phlox, purple and
pink, cascade over the tie, spilling towards the sidewalk like bright frosting
dripping down the side of a cake that you swipe up with the back of your index
finger when the kids aren’t watching and scoop into your mouth because
everybody knows that frosting served without cake doesn’t count. Tucked among the rocks are small patches of
white phlox and pachysandra, delicate purple flowers among shiny waxen leaves.
People seem to like chimes here. Every house has at least one set. When the wind sweeps up, the first chime
starts up the call, which is spread from house to house like birdsong.
There’s a rusted square of metal on the sidewalk and I
glance at it, wondering where it belongs; what it came from.
I reach the tracks and the land flattens. The gates go down and the lights flash and
the whistle blows.
The train whooshes past.
A carful of boys waits at a stoplight. A dog pokes his nose out the window. “Hey,” the driver shouts to three girls on the
sidewalk. He asks for directions.
The girls giggle at one another and smile their knowing
smiles. They tell the boy to turn right,
you can see it from here. They toss
their hair and continue walking, pausing now and again to turn back and smile
at the boys in the car.
For a moment I feel old and irrelevant in my baggy jeans and
my short hair.
The traffic light turns and I cross the street and the driver
doesn’t make the right turn, but instead heads straight laughing and drumming
his fingers upon the steering wheel.
The birds trill and hop.
A squirrel grasps the trunk of a tree and begins climbing. Ahead, a retired couple walks, hand in
And I turn and head back up the hill to where houses stand
upon my shoulders and I don’t feel the weight of them.
Labels: Creative non-fiction, Walk