Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The Place Between Paths

Yes we'll walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And we'll go where the chalk-white arrows go,
For the children, they mark, and the children, they know
The place where the sidewalk ends. (Shel Silverstein)

I have never been a fan of sidewalks. I like that they're available, especially when they're good ones, shady in the summer and clear in Winter, but given a choice between strolling across a nice patch of grass or easing down a paved lane, as Jerry Garcia almost certainly said, I'll take the grass.

Sidewalks are too tame. They're for the safe people, those who need to be directed even in their leisure. There's little room for spontaneity on a sidewalk, as first you're led this direction then later led that direction. Like a sheep. Sidewalks lack an element of danger, a spirit of adventure. They're the equivalent of ordering the same meal at a favorite restaurant, over and over again. They're clean and quiet, like a library, and lack any musical element, unless, of course, you're on a bike. But to walk them is to enclose yourself in a sterile environment, to hang a Do-Not-Disturb sign on your chest, to live of a life of dotted i's and crossed t's in a land of stop signs and fences.

But that place–that unknown place–where the sidewalks end and adventure begins, that's the place Duncan and I like. We prefer the grass, tromped and matted or thick and wild, even a dusty, barren stretch of land is better than a block of cement. We enjoy cutting our own path, stopping when we like for as long as we like, to examine a wildflower, a leaf that's avoided the blower, an ant mound overflowing with dark crawling bodies. It's the places between paths where the spirit of the walk can be found, the joy of the going, the pleasure of the doing. They're the back way, the scenic route, the very place adventure is born.

Duncan is like a child in this respect: he doesn't need the logic or practicality of a trail, he is nourished by the whimsy and frivolity of an open place. He has taken me places and showed me things I would've been too busy to discover on my own. Without him I think I may have lost my way amid the marked and paved lanes of this world.


Lori said...

Yet more proof that dogs are superior to humans. People don't even question why they stay on the sidewalk, and it never occurs to dogs to be constrained by some pavement. They go where they go, for reasons of their own, and don't debate the fact.

PJ said...

I love you, Curt. I appreciate your blog and wanted you to know that I DID visit today and have enjoyed reading this novel... it is beautiful!