I went for a walk on Saturday morning.  Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, I didn’t bring my camera.  The day was sunny and warm enough to be autumn.  On greyer days this week, it seemed more like winter.  Consequently, many of my fellow suburbanites were outside exhibiting their leisure preferences.  We are an odd lot, I think.  Some quirky, some staunchly mainstream seeking credence for their peculiar habits.  If you have a dog or a bicycle or Spandex athletic gear, you are allowed to be out on the paths.  You fit in.  No one stares.  If you’re wearing a mink, a wedding gown, or sitting in the lotus position on a fallen tree, you’re a little more suspect.  I have a story about all three of these.

At the end of my block lives an elderly lady with a cocker spaniel.  She takes him out to the sidewalk on a leash regularly.  The last two times I saw her, she was wearing a midi-length fur coat about the same color as her dog.  As I walked down the street, she faced me full on.  When I got within about 20 feet from her, she called out, “He’ll jump on you!”  I stopped.  “Would you like me to cross the street?” I asked.  “I don’t care what you do.  If you come near him, he’ll jump on you.  It doesn’t matter to me.”  I crossed the street.  “My, your hair is very long!  It goes all the way down to your waist!” she called.  “Yes, it does.”  “Do you live with Scott Peterson?”  “No, I live at the end of this street, at the corner.”  When I am older, can I make blunt comments out of the blue at passers-by?  I hope so.  I like the directness.  No little niceties required.

When I got to the park, I saw a bride, a photographer and a small entourage.  It seems like every weekend someone’s getting their picture taken in that park.  It has a nice bridge, and the fall colors are pretty.  High school seniors and brides and families who send photo Christmas cards love it.  This bride was picking her was across the grass with four people holding up her skirt.  Her shoes were whitish-gold strappy heels adding about 5 inches to her height.  Her hair was in a blonde up-do with tiara and veil.  She might have been a fairy-tale princess except for the odd way she was walking…and her voice.  Despite the outfit, she was a rather pedestrian pedestrian, another modern bride having her day.

I made my way toward the woods.  Just outside the parking area for the pool is a bike trail and a train track.  A speedy middle aged guy in a helmet wheeled in front of me up the path.  When I got to the crest of the train trestle, I saw an older woman in sweatpants stooping over to part the fallen leaves with her hand.  She wasn’t a biker, didn’t seem like a hiker, either.  I think she was looking for mushrooms.  An Old World forager.  I walked past the golf course and headed into the woods.  I didn’t recognize any trails, so I simply made my way across a dry stream bed and found a fallen tree.  I wasn’t too far from the road, but I was surrounded by trees and leaves and moss.  It was pretty quiet.  I flung my coat over the trunk and sat atop it.  From where I was, I could spot a paper wasp nest, woodpeckers, squirrels, and single leaves spiraling gracefully to the forest floor.  I looked up and breathed a sigh.  This is how I recreate.  No Spandex necessary.  One solitary walking man and two men and their dogs eventually strolled by, crunching their way through the underbrush.  They looked at me.  I looked away.  One of the dog walkers went by quite close and made eye contact.  I said hello.  He greeted me and kept his head turned toward me as he walked away smiling.  What?!  I’m sitting in the woods; you got a problem with that?  I suppose I can be defensive in my head.  I often feel awkward socially, perceiving judgment when there’s no reason to.

Later that day, we went to the top of Lapham Peak in the Kettle Moraine park.  The day had turned cloudy again, and smoke from burning leaf piles gave the atmosphere a mournful grey haze.  Our species has its own way of living on the land.  I find it interesting, diverse, idiosyncratic.  Almost as fun as watching squirrels.

7 thoughts on “Encounters

  1. Last week I sat in meditation on a sunny hillside in a public park. When I sat down, there was another woman meditating nearby. When I got up, she had already left. As I was coming out of my meditation, I was greeted by a family strolling in the park. They recognized me from my workplace and seemed glad to see me. Not long after they passed, the father turned back to talk to me about putting his autistic son into private lessons. I was glad to talk to him and hopeful that seeing me might lead to positive benefits for his child. The next morning as I was walking to work, I saw the woman who had been meditating beside me on the hill. She greeted me warmly and we both expressed our pleasure in the beauty of that quiet sharing. It makes me think there should be another line in the Sesame Street song that goes like this: “The meditator is a person in your neighborhood, in your neighborhood…”

  2. what a goofy ad you have up now. How did I miss it before? It seems out of synch with your more serious tone — do you have much input into what ads go on your site?

  3. All right, the truth is that WordPress runs ads occasionally to help pay the bills and “keep the service free”. So in order to have No Ads on my account, I have to pay a $30 yearly fee. Fuck. This does not make me a happy customer.

  4. the ad is gone now and I can easily ignore future ones now that I know they are just part of the package and not something you are gaining from. If you can delete them by staying on top of your spam queue, then all the better. It only goes to show that really there is no free lunch.

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