I live within the sound of Highway 401’s constant hum, a stone’s throw (a long walk or a short drive) from the beach, near a park where rabbits don’t stop eating grass still wet with dew when I stroll past; only when I pause to consider taking a picture do they become concerned.
I put my camera away. They resume munching.
A woman walks ahead of me with a backpack. She’s small and wears sneakers and I think maybe it’s not a woman but a girl… but no, something about the precision of her steps tells me she’s walked a lot further than any girl and when a big yellow lab named Haley lumbers over to say hello, I catch up to her and we’re all smiling and talking to Haley and I see that indeed the woman is not a girl but someone my own age.
Haley and her person go off in one direction while the woman and I continue in the other. I walk ahead of her now at a slightly faster clip and at a turn in the path I look back and see her standing on a small footbridge, taking a moment to watch the creek that runs underneath it. A common enough thing to do—I’ve done it a thousand times myself—yet something about it strikes me as unusual. The backpack and the way she walks tell me she’s going somewhere, punctuality is required, she’s not just out for a morning stroll. And yet, this pause. I have the idea that it might be a ritual. She seems the disciplined type, the sort that would have rituals, routines. It occurs to me (and within seconds I’ve made it a fact, in my own mind at least) that she might pause here every morning on her way to wherever, that she calculates the time to include this thirty second break, that perhaps it’s a kind of meditation, a moment of sameness in her day that she can compare to yesterday’s moment and express gratitude for today’s.
This is how it feels, though why it should feel this way I haven’t a clue.
The birds are noisy this morning, not merely singing their usual songs but an over-the-top joyful cacophony that reminds me of sunrise in the Everglades and I wonder if it’s this sudden warmth that has shot them through with adrenaline in the way it has us non-feathery types. (How else to explain some very strange maneuvers on the roads?)
[A distant screech of tires right on cue.]
The bluebells are out and I follow them along a path to a part of the creek where the most prominent sound is water tumbling over rock.
And there are trilliums. And bloodroot.
And buds on a wild apple tree that every year I mean to pick from to make wild apple crumble, but forget.
Back on the main path I see the woman veer off across a field that leads to the street and the bus stop and I notice the wind must have shifted because the sound of the 401 has all but disappeared.
I walk back over the footbridge, pause a moment, then carry on.