They’re building a freeway not far from my house.
There used to be an empty field there, that I would pass by on my way to the neighborhood grocery store. A small patch of city “nature” which, when unmowed, would be covered with knee-high tall grass, thick green plants with huge white flowers, discarded papers, empty bottles, and squirrels. Being a great lover of nature… from afar, I had a habit of shaking my keys to make noise as I walked past, so that the squirrels would hear and scurry away before I passed them. Sometimes, though, I would pause at the edge of the field and just watch them run from place to place, popping in and out of their little holes in the ground, and being very busy in general doing little squirrel things that I don’t know the purpose of.
At least, I think they were squirrels. They looked like them, only they didn’t have the fluffy tails and they didn’t live in trees. I’d prefer to think that they were not rats. Not that it matters now, anyway. They are gone.
There were no sidewalks for that one block, so the walk was sometimes an adventure. If we were having one of our (formerly rare) California rains, then you’d have to guess which puddle was just a layer of water over the surface, and which ones would swallow your foot up to the ankle. On dry days, it seemed a wind would blow up just as you got to the middle of the dirt block, ensuring that when you got wherever you were going, you’d arrive there with a suitably dusty, well-travelled look, as befits those who have just hiked through the wilds.
Now that the dreadful, really dreadful, chaos of the initial construction is over (Secure walkways for pedestrians? What are those?), however, one can now walk the entire way in the comfort of concrete and fences (protecting the overpassers from falling onto the freeway, and protecting the underpassers from the overpassers).
There is a sprawling elemetary school across the street from the new freeway; single level buildings dotted here and there around the scruffy playground grass, trees and flowers. I was a bit concerned at first, as the freeway offramp points right at the school parking lot, and should just one person fail to make the turn… well, it just doesn’t bear thinking about. Not to worry though, I have found out what that long, three-story boxy structure they are building on a small lot a couple of blocks away is for. They are moving the school.
There are no cars on the freeway yet, as it’s not been completed. When you stand in the middle of the overpass you can’t see where the beginning of the road is on the one side, or the ending is on the other. I don’t know when I decided that this side was the beginning and that side the ending, by the way. Others probably see it exactly the opposite. Regardless, both directions stretch out and then turn a corner, hiding the rest from view.
There is something so seductive about empty, untravelled roads. I find them compelling, at least… in imagination, if not always in fact. There is time to wonder what lies around the corners that you can’t see, and if you should go look. Not much time, though.
Soon the first car will appear around the bend, pass under my observation point and then disappear around the next bend, to be followed by thousands of other cars, day by day. People in ones and twos and tens travelling on my little stretch of road (which only exists from there to there, if you don’t go look). As I pass by on my walk to the store, the wind kicking up when I am in the middle of the overpass block to blow exhaust fumes at me, I’m sure I’ll sometimes pause and look down at them, hurrying from place to place, going somewhere for some reason and being very busy in general doing many things that I don’t know the purpose of.
Not unlike the squirrels they’ve displaced, really.