It was a very cold morning and there was a frozen sort of stillness outside. After hopping across the creek on some quiet rocks I came up behind a small knot of shops. I cut through the back yard of a shop that sells custom neon lights for cars and all the tricked-out hellpiss and those sound systems that rattle the clevis pin out of an automobile in a single afternoon. Now, Iím all for high fidelity, but people tend to play these systems at ungodly volumes even in crowded parking lots or while stopped at traffic lights. The sound shakes the fender metal of neighboring cars, it shakes the very trunk and lock mechanism of the very car from which the sound emanates. Horrible rattling sounds ensue. When I walked past that store that sells that horrible bullshit to people so they can have a stereo that shakes the teeth out of old folks who didnít use enough adhesive on their dentures and causes their teeth to fall on the dirty sidewalk creating terrible inconvenience and exasperation, as, I say, I walked past this place in the pre-dawn cold I felt like leaving them a note that said something like, ďYou may as well be a bunch of oblong hellworms selling religious gasoline to youths bent on fiery self-immolation, you scurrilous dog eaters!Ē So apparently I was feeling not only a little rough around the edges but also a bit self-righteous. I didnít leave a note and I continued on and crossed route 100 .
Mighty wonderful hellpissing route 100. The mighty route 100 lays there carrying tractor trailers of all descriptions delivering buttons, plastic bottles, industrial oatmeal, eyeballs for stuffed animals, and all kinds of goods. Also on this road rolled people at all times of day in all states of mind- ecstatic lovers on their way home to be naked together, heartbroken and bitter hounds with pinched faces, old people with no one to care for them much any more, killers with dead bodies in their trunks, young hounds out for the first time alone with new license and being trusted with the family car and so on. My path then wended onward past the side yard of the Target store and out behind the store into a huge frozen-mud wasteland that shocked and disturbed me deeply.
The field was a huge one, and the far half of it had been graded and set up for a huge new neighborhood the year before. But in the dim light of the approaching dawn I could see that this other half of the field, which had been a fine old weedy field out behind the Target store, was now all bulldozed and laid out for houses too. These efficient and implacable earth moving machines had radically changed the land. I walked up the hill on rough frozen mud and was amazed at the changes wrought. I tramped to the tree line and looked for the place where there was a path that went into the woods. I saw the path but it was all wrong. It was the same path but this part of the path belonged up in the woods fifty yards from the edge of the field. And then I realized that a huge chunk of the woods had been chopped down and hauled away. A familiar feeling of loss oozed into my chest as red streaks of dawn appeared in the sky over the dome of the main building at Immaculata College on the far hill. I walked into the second half of the field and found that there were big houses there now, and a couple of finished streets among the emerging neighborhood.
So I walked through the construction site and across Valley Road and onto the gravel road up behind the old and crusty Church Farm School and then up the big hill where the trees had all been cut when they put the underground gas line through. And from up there I saw in the field across the way what looked like the preliminary surgical grimace of another development or industrial park or office complex. So I walked back down the huge steep hill to see. I walked across the gravel road and down into the field and saw that it was only the peculiar way the farmer had sown the field the previous year. On an impish impulse I dislodged a large old truck tire that was frozen to the ground there by the road and carried it awkwardly and with difficulty back up the big hill. I stood panting a while before sending the tire rolling back down the hill. The tire gained some serious speed and bounced pretty high when it hit the bumps. The cold sleeping rubber suddenly woken to do this crazy damn thing. I heard the sound of it in the quiet first-light. But then it got off kilter and went rolling crazily into the trees. I had misbehaved. I had polluted the woods.
It reminded me of one time in Southwestern Virginia when, after a night of washing dishes at the restaurant where I worked, I went with fellow kitchen workers Jordan and Wingate, two spirited youths, down by the New River to drink beer. Wingate picked up a couple of tires from a big pile by someoneís mailbox, and we parked along a dirt road way out there in the middle of nowhere (or the middle of somewhere, rather). Wingate piled the tires by the road and set them on fire. Thick black smoke rose into the air. It was a horrible shame. Every time they finished a beer they threw the bottle across the river with a whoop, and if the bottles hit a tree or rock and gave a tinkling report of broken glass, they rejoiced. No one taught them respect for the land. To them the river was a place to drink beer and burn tires and throw bottles. I put my bottles in the empty bag, and Jordan protested. He was displeased that I didnít hurl my bottles across the water as he had done. I told him I didnít feel right about littering, especially in such a beautiful place. He said he understood. But, he explained, sometimes a guy just had to throw some bottles and have a good time.
I was thinking these things as I walked past the pathways I knew from earlier walks in these woods. I found further trails I had never been on before. It is always a treat to walk on trails youíve never been on before. That is, unless the landscape is horrible or Western Fence Lizards attack you. But my walk was delightful, and I walked all the way to route 401. I was down on the same meridian, or howling perpendicular as you might say, with old Immaculata College. Then while hiking back on some different trails I saw a buck. The buck was hiding, I guess, hoping I wouldnít come too close. But then he bounded out at the last second. He came bounding out of his hiding place quite close to me and hurried away. Strangely I was not startled, as I have been startled so many times by pheasants or deer bolting from their hiding place. I guess that morning I had just the right balance of caffeine versus torpor and I simply turned at the sound and watched this big horned animal go leaping away with grim face in the cold like he had a sore elbow and wanted just to be left alone to graze in peace.
A little later I walked up one of the trails to the huge tower that sits next to the big white building with no windows, and I saw that this tower no longer had the big transponders on it! What the heck? What happened here? Had new towers made this one obsolete? This was a big metal tower high on the hill. It was one of the early transponder towers with HUGE big strange insect-eye things on it and it was huge and weird. I was born well before they came up with the technology for these transponders and I recall first seeing these weird towers and thinking how very strange and imposing they were. And now I saw this tower with no stuff on it, right there through a few leafless trees. This tower looked so weird to me with no big science fiction hulking insect eyes on it. It was just a great big sturdy metal tower with no purpose, no current function.
When I had stood for awhile regarding the tower, I walked home.
COPYRIGHT 2002 DOUGLAS CLOUD ALL RIGHTS RESERVED