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Grooves

Published 2015-05-01
This is one of my favorite essays

Over the last four years I wore a literal groove into the gravel behind the bleachers at the Lewis and Clark baseball diamond. This narrow shortcut is pretty much your best bet for getting into or out of the long dead-end street of Fourth Avenue and the handful of private roads that empty onto it. Your alternative would be to turn from Fourth Avenue (or Colony Drive) onto Boones Ferry Road — uphill, on a blind curve, with no sidewalk, no bikelane and no shoulder.

At the other end of Fourth avenue is Tryon Creek state park. And our old house.

For four years I rode through the rusty chainlink gate separating the gravel access road behind the visitor dugout from 4th Avenue. For about two years this gate was often closed, and I would stop to prop it open with a rock.

Other friendly souls used this path. On a small handful of occasions — probably less than 10 altogether — I encountered a neighbor jogging or walking a dog through here.

And coyotes, and deer.

Of course the L&C groundskeepers, almost daily.

In September 2013 I began riding regularly through here with Orion.

For four years, my (and eventually our) inbound commute began in darkness and silence, with deep forest on all sides. The narrow passage behind the bleachers marked the point where we left the forest and emerged into the properly human world.

Four four years, my outbound commute would end in that same deep forest. Usually late at night, flying down the 4th avenue hill (about a half mile long and with a 100' drop) an unlighted poorly maintained city street that dead-ended nearly at the chainlink fence next to our house.

I’m not kidding when I say we wore a groove into that gravel. Every time I’d pass through here — and by my reckoning this must’ve been more than a 1000 times — I’d note the bike tracks. Not deep, not ruts, you’d never trip on them — but there they were, and they were ours.

I miss that commute. I miss that passage in the silence, the narrow canal between the forest and the city. Does it miss us?

Does the rusty gate miss us?

Does the old house miss us? Does it miss the bubbling laughter, three kids — no kids had ever lived there, can you imagine? How could you have known these kids for so long and not miss them, a little? Does the pool miss waterfight contests and sunset barbecues? Does the HOA clubhouse miss all our summer birthday parties?

Do the slugs miss us? Do the newts? The boxelder bugs? The jays and wrens and thrushes? The female redtail hawk keening over the house on sunny afternoons? The field mice? The treefrogs? The owls and crows? The neighbors’ dogs?

Does Langton’s ghost miss us?

Do the trees miss us? The two century Doug firs, the Japanese maple, the Asian sugar maple, the holly?

Do the sticks and rocks — carefullly curated by the kids under the Japanese maple — miss us? My heart breaks a little to think of that neat pile of awesome sticks and hand sized rocks. Do they miss being played with? Will the new tenants play with them?

I am not a superstitious person, I am not spiritual. But maybe I have an animistic impulse. Things in the world carry a fleeting memory, barely a whisper, of the events that pass over them. We leave grooves in the world. We remember those grooves, do they remember us?