Deep oak and hickory wood laced with purring creeks and rocky rubble beckons me, but most days they must wait, as getting out of town to the nearest decent public hiking area requires twenty minutes–more than one can afford on a working day. Instead, I often opt for a five-minute drive (to avoid crossing a dangerous street with no side- or crosswalks) to the nearest municipal park.
Wilson Park includes an almost one-mile paved path that crosses a tree-shrouded creek twice. One side of the loop follows rolling greenery with enough vertically inclined vegetation for privacy but not so much you can’t observe the rest of the world. In the middle lie all the recreation facilities I ignore save for the tempting pool. The other long side of the loop lines level terrain and modest gardens.
For the town I live in, this is a good park to reside near. It’s probably the quietest, hilly, and reminiscent of the natural forest–good for a morning walk.
A pair of Weimaraners, a well-groomed Scottie, an elderly boxer–I love noting the dogs that pass me. I don’t remember much about their owners, just whether they were male or female and young or elderly, but I always remember the dogs: how they pant, how rhythmic their stride, and white on the muzzle, and how rotund their torsos. It’s akin to how many horse people don’t recall names of their fellow equestrians, but we’ll recall that the little bay Arabian named Ibn belongs to them.
The best part about pacing a familiar route on a regular basis is that you see all the minute seasonal and meteorological adjustments. One week the black locusts boom and another the fungi spurt absolutely everywhere. Most visitors probably don’t look to the sky or the earth enough to notice these changes or even of the organisms’ individual presence–plants are the greenery and the ground is the ground. Meanwhile, I’m the weirdo stopping on the trail all the time to take mediocre smartphone images because my inner voice says, “HOLY CRAP! Something different! Look at it closer! Take its picture for safekeeping and reference!”
Thanks to the first hours after a rain:
The really fun part about Wilson Park is that it sits in a topographical depression. All roads and buildings around it sit higher save for two of the streets that connect the park to stark dips of major streets. During university I walked to and from the school and home–the school rests on a hill one mile away from the park and I reside on a hill one mile from the park but in the opposite direction. Essentially, I was walking “uphill both ways.” Sneaky elders indicated to us kids that there could be a downhill between the uphills!
Wilson Park: a plot of land where I can watch nature, animals, and people just because that’s the kind of thing I do.