By Marion Brody Kelly

Last night, as we walked around our block, I noticed the differences between dog habits on this familiar path and on the unfamiliar greenways.  Sam and Jake travel the usual block much like I read the daily paper. They check for news on familiar trees, look for posts by neighborhood pooches, skip to the funnies of cats under cars.  Getting out of the car at a new greenway is more like getting on the web, with its endless possibilities.  Like an olfactory internet, one smell leads to another, building and connecting to new ideas.

In the cool shade of Bowen Branch Greenway, the dogs surfed the scents of new possibilities, brains flooded by delight.  Being mostly practical, the dogs have little interest in life above nose level.  Instead, they scampered from bush to boulder to bench.

We never left the sound of busy roads as we walked between Bowen Bloulevard and New Walkertown Road, but the surrounding trees offered the company of sweet and distinct bird and insect songs.  The creek played its little music, an enormous hawk flew overhead and called down to us, and we were brushed with a shady breeze.  

We encountered few people on the short walk, but we felt comfortable and cool.  The one inconvenience is the lack of trash cans.  We saw none at all on this stretch (or on Newell-Massy Greenway), making it more than normally icky to carry the warming bags.

Returning to the parking area at the ball fields, we were lucky enough to find helpful city workers to slip a trash bag into an empty can, and we walked the half-block down Waterworks Road to the Newell-Massey Greenway.  

This greenway also begins in shady trees.  Where a lovely little bridge crosses the creek, I saw what must have been a Great Blue Heron because it was enormous.  It launched itself lazily over our heads and landed with a second heron in a distant tree. 

Photo by Gordon Elmers

Meanwhile, the dogs added to their own encyclopedias, sniffing wildly, until trees pushed back from the path and the boys started to feel the heat.  The relative cool of the morning had faded. Sammy, hot in his black shawl, began belly flop practice in the tall grass.

Heading back to the car, I thought about how these two lovely paths see less traffic than the others, no doubt because they are in neighborhoods we expect to be uncomfortable or dangerous.  A lesson jumped up and down there in front of me, waving both arms: Well-worn fears keep us off the real-life paths where we might find gorgeous birds and sweet little bridges, the healthy swell of the creek, and friendly encounters.  The entire greenway experience walks us away from our world of daily habit. Each bird, each flower, each insect says “look at me.” Time on the greenways gives the gift of open eyes.

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