Sunday, November 26, 2006


Yesterday began as any normal Saturday, with myself rolling out of bed around 11 and stumbling rather gracelessly into my day. Around 1, after writing in my journal and showering, I decided to head next door and grab a latte, which proved to be a recent development in my life. The warm, spring-like air nearly knocked me over upon walking through the half-agape, busted-ass door to my apartment.

The sun shone brilliantly and the temps approached the high ‘60s. It felt more like late March than late November. I felt my soul set itself ablaze. My feet ached to be put to use. With latte in hand, I went back up to my apartment to map out my day. This proved to be another recent development in my life—the whole planning ahead thing. I budgeted a certain measure of time for a drive to Beckwith’s Orchard for some cider. The previous night, I had depleted my supply. The back of my throat stung a tad, and I pictured a massive slumbering infection about to be awakened. My only hope for survival would be the ameliorative powers of the cider.

With my daily agenda set and my latte expended, I headed out for the ATM machine on Main Street. I only had to deposit a check and withdraw some money, then I would go back to my apartment and drive to the orchard. I opted to walk to Huntington Bank, as it was only over the hill and the day was so beautiful. Upon making the subsequent deposit and withdrawal, I held an unflagging desire to continue walking. I felt the optimism of early spring pulsing through my veins, knowing full well it was really late fall and no time to look on the bright side of anything. Deadlines, projects, and obligations loomed over me, as they had all semester. I decided to go for a walk.

It should have been a short walk, just around the block: North Water-Crain Avenue-Gougler (with a detour into the park)-Main-home. It shouldn’t have taken longer than 20 minutes. I crossed the Crain Avenue Bridge, looked over into the Cuyahoga, and saw a vertical tube sticking out of the ground below. It was wide enough to fit a person, as evidenced by the ladder that dropped into it. I wondered where that ladder led and what lay at the bottom of that tube. I located a way down there—I only had to climb down the rocky sheer wall, cross the railroad tracks, and coerce some thorny vines to let me pass.

The hole was only 15’ deep or so, and I climbed down rather easily. At the bottom ran a horizontal tube in both directions, for draining flood waters from the railroad bed, I assumed. By crouching as low as I could and looking to my right, I could see, as if through a long lens, a small sphere of the Cuyahoga. I could hear its churning and shifting. I glanced up the ladder, saw only sky and clouds.

I climbed back up the ladder, reentered the world. I decided to keep walking. It wasn’t so much that I wanted to walk as it was that I needed to walk. I found myself under the Crain Avenue Bridge, amidst old Samba footprints, an abandoned fire pit, and an empty bottle of gin. I looked into the river, broke a small branch from a bush, threw it in.

Pooh sticks, I thought, though I was under the bridge, not on it, and I was the only one racing.

I kept going, along the railroad tracks, along the river, deviating occasionally to revisit old landmarks. I saw the Standing Rock for the first time. Near the dilapidated cement structure, known by those so privy as the Moon Tower, I found a square hole in the ground, lined with cement. The thing was only 4’ deep, so I jumped down and found myself in the junction of 3 underground tunnels. My breath condensed in the cold of the earth. I decided not to pursue the destination of said tubes as it was very dark and cold.

I climbed atop the 25’ tall Moon Tower, visiting the place for probably the last time. I did a few laps around its circular platform. I recalled being incredibly frightened the first time I climbed the roughshod ladder of wood planks nailed to a dead tree. This time, I performed the task with aplomb. I climbed back down, hitting the ground with a thud. I walked away without looking back.

I had become thirsty in my travels. I remembered the cider—my whole reason for departing in the first place. I glanced at the sun. It was sinking rapidly but I figured I had at least one more hour of daylight. I could easily reach the orchard by foot in that span, with time left over to milk the daylight for the trip back. I hit my stride, with my Asics sneakers plodding against the earth in a steady rhythm.

I wondered if I was lonely. I thought of a number of people who would have enjoyed bits and pieces of the excursion, though I couldn’t really conjure anyone who would be up for the entire walk. There were many times during my walk when I said, That would make a good picture; Dogs, I know someone who loves a good pooch; I remember the time we biked on this path. I thought of my best friend Geoff, how we could have marched at the same pace the entire time, exchanging words maybe three times the whole day, but being able to recount the entire adventure—event for event—years later. Nostalgia aside, I knew that I had to do this alone. I was free.

Upon reaching a rickety railroad bridge, I watched a father and son walking beside some tract housing in the distance. The little boy pointed toward me as gingerly balanced between each railroad tie. I had reached the home stretch of my orchard jaunt. I could see, a quarter mile in the distance, the road that led to Beckwith’s. I took a shortcut on a horse trail behind the orchard and followed it along the rows and rows of cornstalks until I found a wide corridor to pass through. Upon stepping through the cornstalks, I was immediately taken aback by the desolateness of the orchard. The trees had been stripped of their leaves and a few bunches of apples dotted the otherwise barren mass of limbs.

The place was completely deserted and I wondered, amidst the five minute walk through the uncomfortably quiet field, if the orchard was even open. Luckily, it was, though the bustling atmosphere that pervaded the store in October had fled. I got my free apple, bought a gallon of cider, and made for home. I calculated that I could get around 70 miles to the gallon of cider.

My thoughts on the return trip were influenced by the setting sun directly in front of me. I thought about the nature of solstices and equinoxes, the longest and shortest days of the year. I thought about what I was doing for the longest day of the year. I hoped I had appreciated every single second of daylight, as the days continued to wax and wane, with increasing intensity, this entire fall. I figured that I had lost November, though this day hit me as a sort of reprieve, a means to make something worthwhile out of this otherwise disparaging month.

As I neared Kent, I was hit with gusts that were simultaneously warm and cold. I could feel spring and fall battling it out before me. Of course, fall was to win, only to be taken slave by winter. But I digress here. I walked beside a pond that had a thin membrane of ice—of ice! How it could maintain that over this warm day made me wonder. I knew this weather was not to last, but I made sure to milk, as I said before, every last instance of daylight.

I left the railroad tracks at the Crain Avenue Bridge, continued across it as I had intended 3 hours ago, walked along Gougler, detoured into the park, sat near the dam for 10 minutes or so, thought of my leap, as Capt. Brady, last July. The streetlights had stammered to life. The sun had set. Headlights traversed Main Street. It grew cold. The slumbering beast of late November rumbled beneath the earth.

With feet blistered, I made the climb to street level, walked up Main Street to my home.


Anonymous said...


peppermintlisa said...

i don't like to read long pieces on the internet. (nor ones with frail type)

but i read the whole damn thing.