I leave home in the mist and walk through Spring Garden Park along the soft trail of cedar chips though the gray-green landscape feeling quaint as though I’m walking through the pastoral countryside before cars were invented. I head to the Village, stop by the restaurant to pick up my paycheck, then wander towards Gabriel Park.
The wooded area along the creek is majestic. It’s layers of colors and textures are especially thrilling in Autumn when the canopy rusts down and bares the rough branches, the dark air of the wood, the diligent generation of soil from leaves and twigs.
It’s so lovely I want to walk along every path in the park. I plot out the best course from the end of Nevada Street and begin to mentally arrange my life so I can do this all the time instead of just enjoying that I am doing it now.
I notice the transgression and focus on the grace of the hills sweeping the skyline, a crow’s silhouette slipping overhead in its usual poetry. Then the sun breaks loose at the edge of the cedar grove where chickadees and Cedar Waxwings talk among themselves above the tiny trace of a creek flowing through the lowest point of the park.
Back in the streets there’s the cacophony of starlings on the electric lines, juncos hopping along a stone wall, chirping in the company of a single crow while robins chuckle loudly across the street.
I didn’t mean to walk to Woods Memorial. Today seemed a good day to be unambitious and just walk around the block but here I am. I descend into the park towards the creek and walk up the Staircase Trail to the empty, forest-lined street on the other side. I’ve never walked this trail to its end and am enchanted with this vacant street; the dense forest on the other side, the grassy area at the trail-head.
The Little Trail takes me back to the creek to head home while the sun comes out over the houses on the street and lights up the yellow leaves in the tops of the Big-leaf Maples.
It is not a small thing to me to be out in the soft gray day, the autumn sun breaking loose in a splendor of green and gold with silvery edges where the rain lays. I live for these moments as though collecting tokens in a game. Each one leveling up my existence from a struggle with a jerry-rigged psychology to a human element entwined with the weather, geologic history, paths of deer and every being’s song.
I don’t notice the day turn to dusk out of the giant windows in the restaurant as I stretch my multi-tasking ability past their fullest capacity; orchestrating people’s food and beverage consumption in a giant obstacle course of dishes, sharp objects, scalding liquids, and elaborate requests that need to be typed into a computer designed to be a cash register—all timed by at least 13 different people’s individual sense of need.
Mostly it goes well but there are moments that try me. It flows best when I make an effort not to judge people according to my own, very personal, set of pet peeves and deflect the same directed at me, but I am no Buddha.
Tonight I tried to stifle a sneeze while taking an order and it came out sounding like a very purposeful and exaggerated clown fart. The lovely, put-together woman at the table gave me a long and icy look of disbelief which seemed to say, “You are much too gauche to even be in my existence and I’m filing a complaint with God as a consequence.” Even absurd moments like this take energy to let slide so I am wound-tight by the end of each meal.
At the end of this shift, in which I failed to notice the day slip into night, it is soothing to walk out into the black air of the rainy neighborhood, the gentle cadence of water meeting the street and roofs, big wet drops plopping out of trees in a melodic timbre. There is no challenge to be here as I walk the narrow streets under trees in the damp night before I make it home.