By Marion Brody Kelly
There’s a big difference between getting there and being there. I was thinking about that this morning on the way to the next greenway. I pushed the directions to Bethabara onto the floor of the car and turned east, back to Salem Lake. I didn’t want to tag each greenway like a point on some manic scavenger hunt. We needed a little more time to be there.
After ten months of teaching like I was jumping out of an airplane with my hair on fire, the holy grail of summer is having time for those lazier chambers of my brain to leak into each other, often in the company of dogs, as they require no conversation. For them, life is the world of light, shadows, and smells. As much as I enjoyed our trek around the lake last week, I needed to go back to see what I had seen.
When we got out of the car, I stopped to watch the water’s glassy surface, breathing in the scent of the hot mulch in the picnic area. The ducks still huddled there, looking like they were waiting for a bus, or maybe just waiting for the lake to return to its normal level. The dogs paused too (not that they had a choice) and observed ducks, lake, and a discarded watermelon in the grass. It’s funny how the smells and sounds of summer seem to tie themselves together, lighting up unrelated memories. Summer is like sensory time travel.
Short leashes in hand, wading creek in mind, we retraced our steps. The trees to our left opened to the slurry green mirror of the lake, scribed by a pair of ducks. The lake is still low, though beginning to fill now that the new dam project has been completed. As we walked, we could see large swatches of weedy lake bed waiting for water.
There were the friendly human encounters I have come to rely on, moments of eye contact and mutual agreement that something here is really important. Then there was an encounter with a seemingly lost woodchuck that stopped walkers in both directions while we waited for him to find his path.
We returned to the shaded creek where my serious Sammy repeatedly amazed himself by dropping his belly into the water and jumping out again. Happy Jake seemed almost as content as I just to wet his feet and gaze at the trees. I would have loved to let them run unleashed through the underbrush, but it was also nice to turn and take the winding walk back to the car. The lake, now cross-hatched by a mild breeze, seemed to be wishing for rain. We were happy just being there.