Our home is seven miles outside the city limits, five miles from the nearest Mom & Pop market, on the other side of the hill. While not secluded, our quasi-country neighborhood does enjoy a comparative lack of motorized traffic. Excepting the two daily commutes, the roads are fairly empty.
Although asphalt continues to claim gravel roads elsewhere in the county, the one we live on is so narrow and twisting at its peak that Public Works doesn’t attempt to improve it, having no doubt recognized its true value for training road grader operators.
It’s also a great place to begin a walk, connecting as it does with a network of secondary roads. Pedestrians can wander in all directions, well away from the main roadway. I’m grateful to have it, but I wish the route was over dirt, stones, tree roots and the like, instead of pavement, and that when I get tired I could round a bend and discover a quaint pub waiting, with John Smith’s on tap, to refresh my spirits.
But this isn’t England, unless I daydream. My route today is short, barely three miles, a mere warmup for most, the ground hard and unrelenting. The English call it tarmac, and road walking is known as tarmac bashing. (Why does that sound like fun, when it can be quite dangerous—and boring—at the same time?)
No matter: a short hour brings me back to the house. En route I’ve acquired a light sweat, a new twinge in my left foot, and a few observations since I last made the walk.
Three beers, two brands of bottled water, and an unidentified fruit drink were roadside reminders that Keep Oregon Green isn’t everyone’s idea of a proper state motto.
The washer and dryer pitched down an embankment three years ago are so overgrown with weeds that they will soon disappear.
Metal gates have been installed at the entrances of two driveways. Others have been replaced by beefier models.
Half the homes I passed are For Sale.
A German shepherd, a collie, two golden retrievers, and several mutts announced their displeasure at my passing, which is their birthright.
One fat cat sat on a fence and showed no interest in me at all.
Three people waved as they drove past. No one greeted me on foot (a rarity, especially when there’s no rain).
I heard a murmuring of feathers when a number of birds flew overhead. Blackbirds, I believe. No bluebirds came to brighten the trees.
When I come inside the fire is burning soothingly in the wood stove, five cats and a German shepherd show no interest in me, and I settle for coffee instead of ale. As my neighbor says, life is good.