Editor’s Review: This post was entirely self-edited, so you might find errors, flubs and hiccups in the prose. Grammar fanatics can post comments below.
As we rounded the first intersection on our evening walk, we encountered a neighbor who informed us that a bear had been sighted on his street that very day. Residents had posted the sighting on Next Door, the neighborhood electronic bulletin board. The news gave us a moment of pause. The bear was most likely long gone. We heard no shrieking of surprised homeowners from the vicinity of their garbage cans. We calculated the chance of encountering the bear and continued our evening walk without incident. This was in the summer.
Now, in winter, we remember the bear sighting. I feel more vulnerable during our winter evening strolls around the neighborhood. It is dark and cold. There are no companionable neighbors walking their dogs to warn us of lurking wildlife. The winter walks feel more isolated. Just the two of us in our little conversational bubble. Our only companions are the cats at Cat Corner, where we usually stop so that my husband can commune with his feline friends. Even in the cold, the cats come out to greet us every night as we pass their corner.
The evening stroll is our little ritual right after dinner. We stick to the immediate neighborhood, which is only five streets, one of which is a dead end, so we skip that one. We prefer a circuitous route which takes us about fifteen minutes to complete, except in summer when neighbors and dogs are out and available for conversational stops. I always talk to the dogs first, which might seem rude, but our neighbors are cool with it.
One stretch of the walk is along the busy road which borders the north side of the neighborhood and provides access onto our quieter streets, where there are no sidewalks. It is the scene of much traffic and drama.
The access street which approaches the bustling, traffic-filled avenue is bordered by dense foliage (even in winter it’s a jungle) on one side and the wide, well-manicured lawn of the funeral home on the other. It is a treacherous location. Cars and their unsuspecting drivers come careening around a blind corner where fragile human bodies may be making their way toward the sidewalk of the very busy road, walking on the left side of the road, where they are supposed to walk for safety’s sake. The resulting encounter, even without collision, can cause momentary shock for drivers and walkers alike. We quickly learned to walk on the funeral home lawn, where, even if approached by cars from behind, we won’t end up needing the services of the business where we are trespassing.
Once we turn the corner, we move quickly along this block of busy road, keeping an eye both in front and behind. The street also has a curve coming down toward our neighborhood from the top of a hill. A car with a distracted driver might keep going straight, not realizing the curve in the road. The potential for this is terrifying. We remember that this very scenario has actually happened. One vehicle took out a utility pole and left us all in the dark for hours. The driver was unhurt, so we were informed. Thankfully we weren’t walking there when the pole bashing occurred, though we went to survey the damage, and had a nice dinner out that night.
Our evening walk has become a habit. If the rain is anything more than a polite Carolina rain, we skip it. If not, we head out in our raingear. Last winter, as we set out into a cold, dark environment, I mentioned that something was hitting me. When we moved under a streetlight, I was enchantingly surprised to discover it was snow. My first flakes in Asheville! Though some might be reluctant to traipse around the hood as the snow comes drifting down from the sky, I was content. I had spent the past 42 years in Houston, Texas, where it rarely snows. I had no winter coat, but I did have child-like delight.
Now I am better equipped for winter weather. I have a nice down coat, hats and scarves. I bought some gloves, but can’t find them. My coat has fleece lined pockets. I take my hand out only to wave to drivers as they pass us in the neighborhood. We keep thinking about carrying lights and reflective vests, but forget to bring them every time we step out the front door. We are relying on the good driving habits of our neighbors and sticking to the left side of the road (except for that one treacherous spot).
Our streets are hilly and sometimes we walk uphill backwards for fun. Now that all the leaves are off the trees, we can see lights sprinkled along the mountain to the west, reminding us that there are more people than bears up there. On the street below ours, we are able to see the bright lights of the milk processing plant in the distance. We call it Oz. It is invisible in summer. In the fall, before the time change, the sunsets give a spectacular view, especially if we sneak into the parking lot behind the funeral home, where the scene is an artistic display. We watch it as the chimney swifts flit about the funeral home rooftop. Despite the traffic going by on the other side of the building, it is amazingly quiet in this space.
Our walk has rewarded us with the chance to meet new neighbors in the summer and marvel at the changing leaves in the fall. We are familiar with most of the neighborhood dogs and some of the more gregarious cats. We know which houses are for sale and whether a boy or a girl has been born nearby. We have been around long enough now to have the pleasure of invitations to dinner or drink.
As the holiday season approaches, we are entertained by the varied light displays our neighbors have devised to celebrate the season. We reminisce about our seasonal walks of the past and remember family and friends in distant places. Our evening walk anchors us to home and hearth (which I am currently in the process of painting), giving us a space and time to reflect on the past, revel in the present moment and look forward to visits from loved ones in the coming new year. Bears excluded.
We look forward to this ritual, which signals an end to our busy day and the start of a quiet evening at home. We walk back up the front steps, satisfied that all is well and cozy at the little Hobbit House in the mountains.
May your days be merry and bright,
Thank you for supporting Living with Ethel and my writing habits. If you have edited for me during this crazy start-up year, I give you grand hugs. If you want to edit or contribute to the blog in the new year, let me know! –Internal Circus Publications-