Sunday, April 16, 2017

Sidewalk & Highway



Thinking of a name for this blog kept me from writing for weeks. I had no idea what I wanted it to be, so I started brainstorming. One of my first choices was ‘The Gravel Pit’, named for my childhood camping spot in the mountains of southern Washington State. It brought to mind summers spent with family, camping for weeks on end, and picking huckleberries in the rainforest surrounded by evergreens. It spoke to me of nights around the campfire and it represented where I came from -- the mountains along the Columbia River in the Pacific Northwest. I still go back to visit those moss-covered woods every time I am home. The air is crisp and smells of plants. It is one of my favorite places in the world. However, I then discovered that ‘Gravel Pit’ is a song by the Wu Tang Clan and is also slang for something I do not wish to name my blog after.

The next idea was ‘For Lacey -- My First Cat’. She ran away or was lost the year we moved out of the trailer park and into a house across town. I always felt sad and guilty that I didn’t try harder to prevent this outcome and I didn’t even want to think of what had become of her. Naturally, I moved on to something more cheerful: ‘Turf for the Lark’. This comes from a line in one of my favorite fairy tales about a lark who is captured and put into a cage. He is dying when they bring him a piece of turf adorned with a single daisy. As he complains of a burning throat and expresses his desire to be out in the beautiful world once more, the daisy longs to comfort him. The lark shoves his beak into the cool earth in one last attempt at relief before he is so cruelly ripped from existence. It turns out that I couldn’t stand the thought of being faced with the dying lark and the cruelty of life every time I opened my blog.

I moved on to ‘Sidewalk and Highway’. Sidewalk and Highway were two plants that I had while living in South Korea. I named them. Eventually, they died. I somehow couldn’t get away from the sad death of plants and pets, or plants that I treated like pets. I embraced this and let it sit for a while. I thought about how highways bring us together. They connect us to other places and people. They take us on journeys to far away. Highways represent big changes and rare vacations. Sidewalks connect us in a closer way. They are the face of our communities. In cities around the world, there are sidewalks. Sidewalks are planned carefully. Houses are built in a way to make the sidewalks more welcoming and comfortable. Children play on sidewalks and neighbors say hello as they pass each other in the evenings while walking their dogs. Restaurants have patios on sidewalks where patrons sit and people watch, chatting about their lives and admiring the trees that line the streets.

Having moved back to America from South Korea approximately one year ago, neighborhoods here are still a place of fascination to me. The American neighborhoods that I know are so vastly different from the 32-story apartment buildings, the glitz of neon signs, the buzz around local subway stations, and the overabundance of coffee shops in fast-paced urban Seoul. While my feelings for Seoul still feel a bit like a broken heart, it has been a pleasure of mine to enjoy the fresh air and greenery of American neighborhoods. I’ve been gawking at the old houses and apartment buildings in Denver with their ornate trim and their front porches and their sun rooms on their second floors. Sidewalks and highways in cities and countries around the world bring you to their own unique kinds of places -- they carry the pulse of the culture and determine your experience there. Wherever I may go in the future, I know that I will always experience a sense of wonder driving to new cities on vast highways and exploring neighborhoods by sidewalk. And I am sure that my long-lost pet plants would be glad to know that they now have plant siblings who will live to grow another day.

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