How many times have I stood here and listened to time’s echoes?
Most of my life has been lived within ten miles of where I was born. Oh, I’ve traveled some and seen great wonders. There are plenty of miles under my feet.
But it is to here I always return. I’ve never been one to make my wanderings more permanent. I am a creature of here.
I can tell you what used to be here and when that road was built. I’m that guy.
There is a trail near my office. A trail by a creek. Hundreds of people a day leave their offices and apartments to walk or run on that trail, next to that creek. It’s a nice paved trail with trees and grass and sometimes the sound of water.
I remember a time when there wasn’t a trail here and childhood friends and I trespassed through the orchard to find ourselves on a narrow dirt path that would one day see dog walkers, stroller pushers and runners. Back then we 12 year-olds moved quickly to avoid the farmer, who rumor had it, chased young trespassers with a shotgun loaded with rock salt.
Back then the dear path we followed sometimes branched down to the creek where you could dip you hand for a drink of cool water. That was before we learned of what toxins found their way into this paradise of dry grass and fruit trees.
Sometimes when I walk the new trail, I still see those boys on a Saturday afternoon, running from imagined ogres/farmers and stopping to skip stones across the sleepy pools of a dying creek on a summer day. The freedom and joy of those days.
How can I tell you of the day when this young man drove by the orchard and saw the fruit trees being pulled up and hauled away? Progress. As my heart sank and my memories remain in my mind alone. Apartments rose from the ruins of the trees and chain link fences replaced the old rusting broken barbed wire.
For decades local maps held a dotted line that would someday be the “West Valley” freeway. It was to cut across our creek at a place were we once tried to build a rock dam. The water rose faster than we could move rocks and in the end we just threw rocks at the water before mounting out bikes and riding off to the Dairy Queen for an ice cream cone.
I was walking on the trail under that new freeway and I thought I could see the vague outline of that old rock dam – not too far from where the pillars of the freeway were driven into and below the creek. My past buried under tons of concrete so thousands of cars can add their toxins to the pure air of my youth.
How this place has changed. I’ve changed too. A bit older, a bit fatter and I no longer eat ice cream cones. No longer am I that boy who’d run away from home for a Saturday of fun along the creek.
Now I am just an older office dweller, who after a morning of writing emails, takes a stroll by the creek. I tell my coworkers and my doctor that it’s for my body’s health and that the goal is 8,000 steps.
But it is really so I can talk to the rocks and ask the trees if they remember me.