By Marion Brody Kelly
With the last days of vacation sneaking away, my dogs and I completed our tour of the city’s greenways at the newest one. Brushy Fork opened in July, and still lacks some finishing touches–like signs and parking. After a couple of failed attempts to find it, we were directed to the southern starting point on Lowery Street by greenway specialists Rick Mashburn and Ginny Weiler.
Leaving the car, Sam and Jake dove nose-first into the walk, as usual. I wished again that I had the same enthusiasm for life in all of its details as my dogs. As I struggled to rein them in, I knew that liver treats and happy words were no match for the pleasure of new scents. Why eat a Lifesaver when you can have chocolate mousse? It made me wonder why we humans can be so easily distracted from the pull of the outdoors by the pleasures of the virtual. On the greenway, I did not think of Facebook or email, did not want to message a friend. Even without the heightened senses of a dog, being outdoors gives me more than enough to both load and rest my brain.
Brushy Fork Greenway features another of the lush waterways that weave through our city. The creek water sparkled, even around discarded shopping carts and a gigantic PVC pipe. Hopefully, as this trail becomes established, the tossing of garbage will become too embarrassing to continue. While the creek sounded a call to Sam and Jake, we stayed on the path and moved generally forward.
The most vivid memory I took from this trail is one of height. We passed under the huge I-40 bridge, the long-abandoned First Street bridge, and the Fifth Street bridge, each distinctive with its own cool, functional splendor. A towering oak tree that must have been hundreds of years old rose out of a high bank right by the trail. All of this loftiness made me feel small in the kindest way, as a small part of the Earth.
Along the tidy path we were treated to the blooms of native clematis and evening primrose, named by my knowledgeable human companions. Conversation moved to the behavior of birds and butterflies, and the slight tremble of opening moonflowers. All the while, the dogs skittered through the grass in ecstasy while I tried to remind them to notice me instead.
We soon crossed a new footbridge and reached Skyland Park, where the Newell-Massey Greenway begins. Brushy Fork won’t always be so short; it is already being lengthened to the south to make a connection to the Salem Creek Greenway. The linking of these greenways will make a wonderfully long trail through tucked-away stretches of loveliness.
So our summer has ended, but we will return to the greenways. My dogs deserve it as much as I do. And now, having rediscovered biking, I will ride the paths as well. These trails have sewn their way through my summer much as they knit themselves into our community. They made my life larger. We all need to get out more. We need to see more of each other and more of the place where we live. Come on out to a greenway. Bring your friends. Bring your dogs.