05 May 2009

We walk

Morning air cool on my skin, but even early, the sun is hot.

Just walking, my body betrays the music I am listening to, and I tap out the beat on my thigh as my hand brushes past it. The sun is behind me, my shadow before me. I watch how my tiny ponytail bounces back and forth behind my head as I move, how my ears stick out a little below my baseball cap. Shoulders are straight, pulled down, and I can't help but smile at the shadow of the cocky confidence of a catwalk strut I've never quite forgotten.

I can't run anymore, but a walking pace of 4-1/2 miles per hour isn't bad.

At the entrance to the channel trail, I am greeted with 6-foot high cyclone fencing with green modesty panels. My explosive exclamation of annoyance attracts the attention of the elderly woman walking the elderly poodle across the street.

This portion of the trail has never been "beautified." It is simply a dirt track running behind houses on either side. Suddenly, the county has decided to beautify.

Slyly, the woman points out that the fence isn't locked, that there is a very narrow gap between panels in the center. "Usually, it's chained up," she quavers and adds, waving toward the opposite side of the street where the unbeautiful trail continues, "like over there. But not today."

There is a little twinkle in her eye, as if she knew.

I'd already noted there was a way in at the edge, but the gap in the center is slightly wider.

We cordially wish each a good day, and I slide between the panels.

All is quiet, no machinery or work people. The only change is about a 6-foot length of cobbles leading to the street. I head down the path, head up, eyes level, shoulders down, stride long. It is likely that there will be another fence at the end, but I know the lay of the land.

And I'm not averse to climbing fences.

In one of backyards, a dog sitting next to its rope toy silently watches my progress. I smile at it, but it just looks sadly down at its toy, then away.

The far end of the trail is indeed blocked with another piece of cyclone fence covered in green fabric. I can see cars and people vaguely through the fabric, and I like the sense that I am hidden from view.

But how to get out? I could climb over the wrought iron fence bordering the trail to my left and trample the bushes of the housing development, though I'd rather not. Then I spy the gap at the edge of the cyclone fencing and slide through, striding forward to stand at the next stop light.

"Where'd you come from?" the older man waiting there on his bicycle asks with mild consternation.

I'm reminded of the moment in the book "From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler" when young Jamie is caught hiding in the men's room of the Metropolitan Museum of Art by a custodian. "My mother always said I came from heaven," he replies to the same query.

I smile and shrug. "I'm a free-range pedestrian," I reply and leave it at that.

The light changes and I bound across the street to join those traversing the open trail, head up, eyes level, shoulders down, stride long.

Laughing.

Go listen to some good music: "We Walk" from the album Murmur by REM. We walk through the world. It's a good thing.

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