In my room, the world is beyond my understanding,
But when I walk I see it consists of three or four hills and a cloud.*
For Virginia it was a pencil. For me a pint of milk, a freshly baked baguette and a box of cherries (that almost elusive fruit, a few days late and you miss its short and sweet season) are a good enough reason for putting on your shoes and going out for a walk. The art of writing maybe becoming redundant but food, especially good food, never will. Two blocks and a short climb up the hill is all it takes to reach the local co-operative. But it seems like journeying into another world.
To the tamed eye it is nothing but some modern apartment buildings, a handful of independent homes, a couple of restaurants and lots of cars parked on the roadside–a staple in American cities. However, it’s not quite American suburbia with all its attendant horrors. It is the 21st century version of big city living, with a glimmer of hope.
To the untamed eye it is, well, a walk to remember. After saying hello to the neighborhood pugs, all three of them, one takes a left under the watchful eyes of our resident crow and past the blooming rhododendrons and walks right into a wonderland- two “unkempt” gardens playing host to all sorts of wild things. There are masses of blue, white, yellow and orange wildflowers dancing cheek to cheek with giant peonies and poppies. There are bees, butterflies and hummingbirds darting from plant to plant. The house sparrows are feeding their young; the robin comes to take a look-see and whistles a tune. The chickadees are heard but not seen. The worms are busy digging and the creatures too small to be observed by the human eye are doing what they do best. Ten steps are all that it takes to move in and out of this world. Timed well it is ten steps enough.
Further ahead smoky-white clouds hang above the mountain tops that dwarf downtown's towers. Two young girls are picnicking over a bowl of salad on a patch of grass by the roadside, pink and yellow ribbons tided to their bicycle's handlebars. Stapled onto the wooden pole is a poster of a man with a ukelele held before his face. A little girl is discussing, what one supposes are, her big plans for the summer with her grandma, as she pushes her wagon along. A couple walk by hand in hand carrying a pot with a flowering tomato plant. The graffiti on the petrol pump wall reads PREPARE. For the end of oil the mind adds. There's a party on the second floor across the street. A kid on a skateboard swerves to the right. The cashiers from Trader Joe's are splitting a can of beer while the homeless man straightens his dog's bandana, smiles and asks, how's it going? It's 5:16 PM. The sun is at it's highest position in the sky and a walk is always well worth getting out of the house for.
*Wallace Stevens, Of the Surface of Things