It is important to go into the hills. Not so much to expand what is known, but to expand the unknown into your burgeoning self. You get bigger that way. It puts wordless things into your sleep when all you’ve been dreaming is words.
To begin, I live at the suburban edge of the metropolis, on a hill of strip malls, 600-dollar apartments and flat yards. A graveyard and a neighborhood, both remembering Jimi Hendrix. And further, separated by gullies, valleys, ravines, more tameless hills lead eastward into the west. Their smoothly curved slopes are thick with evergreens.
This used to be the land of cougars; as things are, a bunny can be seen now and then. Since I no longer live in the city, and generally don’t use a car, I like to take my feet and get myself even further away from it, escaping the ever-more repetitive exploits of civilization, and daring what is left of the pristine. While others drive to far-away locations, park, and set out to walk or jog, I wake up, put on my Brooks Addictions, and slowly gather speed and sense.
Yesterday’s run along the May Creek Valley could have made good photography. Descending through upper class neighborhoods, past large houses of people with a hell of a commute, I found, in a dead end, a brief cement alley declining to a well-trimmed street.
Going on downward, I reached the valley, crossed a creek bridge, verged right and followed a string of long farms winding for miles between the two slopes. Tall trees stood half-way up the broad grassy incline, horses grazing in October air recently cleared of fog.
The horses: earth, sienna, copper, brown and rust. I was above them by the space of a large gutter times two. Within the fences, a calm land, tufts of gorged grass, and piles of the healthiest crap I’ve seen in months. You could smell it, too. It was the smell of unrestrictedness, of air unfolded, breath opening from all ends of the body
A few drab sheds of unpainted wood, rusted farm equipment, long fields surrounded by short barbed-wire fences. The road followed the farmyards, the creek, Squak Mountain rising directly at my side, its trees leaning in and dusting the roadside with yellow leaves. So the road wound in the way of creeks and mountain flanks. At the sound of an engine I’d look back, or skip to the opposite curb, since there was little room for either of us.
Further on there were sidewalks, a streetlight, a one-room café with lamps over dreary, happy faces. A gas station sat over a gully, and in its lot a tall pink coffee cart with Christmas lights, hung with a pitch-black board saying Rosie’s Beans. I crossed a bridge over that imperceptible creek which the poor road was named after, a pedestrian pathway covered with staling moss. It is always comforting to reach these brief intersections that flash in and out of the mind, leaving images of small things you almost wish to be a part of.
In the outskirts of the metropolis, in small towns, it’s more trite, but more touching; in the city I would run past bistro after bistro in which I had never eaten: North 65th Street, say, before the recession, bustling with lovers dressed smoothly in almond, in cobalt, lovely amaranth or immaculate black, feeding each other wine and mozzarella. I never went out to such venues in my early twenties, and there was sadness–and a thrill–in never being a part of that life directly, but moving by it with well-earned adrenaline and peace.
Now, through with intrigue, I was tiring. The knee which cured itself last year was asking me to remember, and the tight sinews rising from them were stiffening with wear, warning of Monday. I was coming back into unfamiliar roads which I knew led to familiar streets, and the novelties began to decrease as I approached a bend.
A faint suspicion of Fall went back and forth through the wind, and I turned back westward, four miles from home.
–Sunday, October 3, 2010