We’ve lost something, left something, along the old goat trails. Allow me to explain — I am sitting here in a Starbucks, writing on my netbook, listening on my Beats Tour headphones to Giselle, act II no.15, Pas De Deux (I don’t usually listen to classical music but it seemed conducive to writing) — in other words, surrounded by privilege — and thinking about why my feet are wet.
The reason is I had been walking in the long grass before I got to the goat trail. And the reason I’m daring you to follow in my footsteps is because of all I’ve learned in the last hour on that trail.
I got up this morning to take our Kia for the dealer for its 90k service. Such a thing is always long but I thought it would be a good chance to go down to the nearby Starbucks and write without interruption for a few hours.
I dropped off our Kia at 8:00am and started walking. Now, I should explain that the dealership is on a long commercial stretch beside a five-lane highway (Atlanta Hwy for the Athens, GA locals) that had an exciting, new mall 30 years ago and now has a quite less exciting mall and a slight, tittering-on-the-edge-of-irrelevancy feel.
It’s also a two mile walk to the Starbucks, one mile more than I’d ever walked on this highway (the Best Buy I work at is in the middle, and so I’d seen the dealership-to-Best-Buy portion on many oil changes (I like walking) and yet I’d never walked the Best-Buy-to-Starbucks bit.
Now, this is no ‘bad’ neighborhood and yet I know some would say walking alone, purse clearly out, and my netbook in a larger bag is asking for trouble. We are afraid of the unknown, and the very act of walking is unknown to our car-driving, latte-sipping culture. So I bopped along happily in the morning sun and through the morning dew (feet getting be-drenched). I didn’t even have a head phone in one ear, as I usually do on this walk.
I passed by my Best Buy and continued on into the unknown, the unwalked — to McDonalds and beyond.
Here is where my real journey began, the journey of discovery, the journey I suggest you take someday soon.
There were no sidewalks. There was trash. People walked from McDonalds toward the Starbucks, back to the apartments behind it. On my previous walks, everything had been clean because I walked past the dealerships and furniture stores set so far away from humanity that nothing touched their perfectly manicured lawns — except me.
Now, walking beside a snip of woods, I saw that so many people had walked through the grass of this no-sidewalks area as to wear a trail, a path that seemed to me to look just like a little goat trail worn down to the dirt by so many feet.
And it felt like two different time periods were laid out side by side on the Atlanta Hwy — I walked the same dirt path that people were walking through fields and to cities thousands of years ago and meanwhile the present, the future, sped by six feet to my left.
As I walked onward I met my second lesson. He came across the cross walk to my side on the street. He was ahead on me but I walk fast and so I was gaining on him. We were pretty different, he was black and I was white, he was a little older while I’m still a little younger, and he was dressed in a uniform like he might be a delivery truck driver (which isn’t really that different than a Best Buy employee).
We said hi, then commented on the weather. I joked that it was nice to see the sun; after so much rain my friends and I had been joking that we must have moved to Seattle. Then he said he had actually lived in Seattle, and Arizona, and fifteen years in Germany. He worked there as a translator. We joked about how the Americans often have more trouble understanding the British than other countries because they believe they already know the language and then it was time for him to turn off down his road and I was about at the Starbucks.
And I just couldn’t help thinking this was something that could never happen from behind the window on a speeding car, or even in the little gardens we create for ourselves on the internet, each with their high walls of exclusion.
And it certainly can’t happen if you let a culture that sells fear of our neighbors as six-O’-clock news entertainment tell you how to live your life.
So get out of your house, knock on your neighbor’s door, introduce yourself or, at the very least — find a little risky, slightly abandoned trail and walk the heck out of it. You never know who you’ll meet there.
Lastly, at Starbucks I asked for a cheese Danish with my smoothie. The lady behind the counter asked if I wanted it warmed. I said no, then realized I had never had it that way before because I was always rushing back to my car, back to the road. So I said yes, heat it up.
She said, “It’s really tasty that way, especially if you have the time to sit down and enjoy it.”
And what is the point of life if you can’t slow down, pull off the speeding highway once in a while, and enjoy a meandering journey down an old goat trail? Especially one replete with undiscovered friends?
P.S. The danish was delicious.