"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Sons of the Pioneers theme for TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon artist's musings melding metaphors and journalism, for readers in more than 150 countries.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Mortality much on my mind

Mortality is much on my mind these days as another year wanes and a birthday looms a week away.
Another walk in Hafer Park punctuated those thoughts with every thing I saw and heard yesterday afternoon, especially one walker I passed not long after I started.
We're fortunate in that our neighborhood backs up to Hafer Park, billed as an urban forest by Edmond. I can walk almost two blocks, take a narrow sidewalk between two houses and enter the park on the back side of a looping trail, marked by the Boy Scouts with posts every quarter mile for 1.75 miles.
Every walk is an adventure, a journey in time and mortality, for I wear no headphones, listen to no music, but open my eyes and ears and other senses to the stories on that  trail. I don't walk slow, or really fast either,  but at a steady pace.
There he was ahead of me, moving slowly. I first noticed his cane, then his stoop, then the left arm dangling without motion. I slowed to take a photo, and then passed him, saying "It's a beautiful day." He replied, "It certainly is," and kept shuffling along.
I no longer have any excuse nor reason not to walk that trail every day. Of course I've said that before, like the time I passed a man with a club foot, walking the trail, but I need reminders.
Mortality was all around me that day, and indeed every day. The shadows of the trees move and lap over the trail mark time as the sun passes overhead. You can usually hear the punctual moan of a diesel locomotive and freight train two miles away on the Burlington Northern Santa Fe main line, heading north or south.
There are always walkers, and joggers, several of whom lap me before I've completed the circuit. The young ones swish and lope by effortlessly, listening to music on their headphones, or chatting away with friends or lovers. Middle aged me, shirts soaked with seat, huff and puff by. I've heard German, Spanish, Chinese and Japanese.
Lots of people walk their dogs here, and I've seen every breed from Great Pyrenees to Dachshunds. All you have to do is say "beautiful dog," and you get a "Thank you."
Teenagers and their skateboards take advantage of the hills to weave their way through the park. 
A neighborhood path into Hafer Park and a journey
There are always children and parents and grandparents populating the playgrounds, helping children swing or climb, or feeding the ducks and geese at the pond, or tending a fishing line on one of the benches, forgetting about time. In nicer weather the photographers are out, posing families and children for natural setting photographs, trying their best to get the children to smile, for a moment frozen in time.
Then there are the parents, some with babies in strollers, others holding their childrens' hands for walks. Some children are out on their scooters or new bicycles, learning their way.
One little girl, no more than four or five and wearing a helmet, whizzes down a slight slope on a Christmas gift pink bicycle with training wheels. She stops and turns to her mother, about 25 feet behind. "Mommy, that was so fast it made my eyes water," she says. I smile and say something to her mother, who smiling, replies.
I've noticed that the teenagers and nearly twenty somethings usually don't make eye contact or speak with this aging Okie, but the older people get, the more they meet your eyes and speak some greeting, or nod as they jog by. Something there is about the passing of time that makes you open to a simple greeting.
Every walk is an adventure, a journey
Hafer is bounded on the west and south by Spring Creek, helping muffle the time-ridden traffic of Bryant a half block away, and along the creek banks and undergrowth you can see running water, and birds, while wondering what else lives down there, on its own timetable, oblivious to humankind 's clock.
You see or hear Cardinals and other birds flitting among the bare branches, surviving another winter, knowing that spring will come. This last walk there were lots of broken limbs littering the ground from the ice storm, as time takes its toll.
But for my mortality, the little girl on the bicycle and the old gentleman with the cane breathed life.

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