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An Evening Stroll Through Time

Last night, I went for a walk.

That’s nothing special, I realize, no big proclamation. Lots of us do it, and for me, walking has become a staple of my regimen in these days when fragile knees and a sore back tend to be the norm.

Thing is, I usually get my exercise in the morning at, or before, dawn. (I guess you’d call me a “morning person,” though it’s not by choice, just routine … and possibly genetics as my dad was always up super early and none of us knew why. I never asked him; I just added it to the long list of things we didn’t know about him.)

But last night, as we wrapped up another weekend and prepped for another Monday, I thought I’d head out for a brisk 45 minutes or so, just to clear my mind (a gargantuan task for me) and relax me (an even more gargantuan task) before bed.

While I mentioned I’m not a morning person “by choice,” I do love and appreciate that period where things are still and dark; a place and time when I can go about the day’s first tasks and routines in complete silence and solitude.

Often, it’s the time of day when I do my best thinking and my best work. It’s also a time when one can be extremely productive, without falling prey to the inevitable distractions that will creep up soon after the Sun breaks; distractions that will continue until – and possibly after -- it sets.

But beyond those things, I love early morning because it has its own “feel,” that of potential and (dare I say) hope as the sky slowly and gently brightens, waking the birds and eventually, all the creatures that will participate in today’s activities. And whether I’m reading or writing or doing some household tasks to get them out of the way and clear my schedule, early morning allows me to ease into my day peacefully.

Evening is different, and last night as I stepped out at dusk (dawn’s counterpart but not really its twin or mirror image), I realized a unique vibe. While the sky didn’t appear much different than pre-sunrise, everything was just … different.

The sound of the birds. The distant vehicle traffic. Activity around the neighborhood. Even the air felt different.

None of it bad, just … different.

As I walked in the thick summer air, the sky grew darker, pulling the moon and stars out for all to see. The experience – the “vibe” – started bringing back memories from my childhood, and how this time of day, during this time of year, was when I experienced some of my best times, had the most fun, and did my “best work.” (Oh, how times change.)

I thought about games of Kick the Can or Red Light/Green Light and pickup basketball played under a single light that illuminated the small school playground near our house.

I thought about my mom and dad sitting on our front porch on a muggy summer evening, Dad smoking a cigarette and drinking his post-dinner coffee as Mom quietly read a book or worked on a crossword puzzle as I played with my Hot Wheels cars.

I saw fireflies – something you won’t find pre-dawn – and it took me back to the days when my best friend/cousin Mike and I would catch them and put them in Mason jars with holes poked in the top, just to say we caught them before releasing them back to their natural habitat physically unharmed, though possibly a bit traumatized.

I saw two kids riding bikes. At one point, they had stopped to talk to a police officer who’d set a speed trap on a busy street. Moments later, they sped off, pedaling to a local custard joint. (I know that because minutes later I saw them eating cones as they rode to their next evening adventure. I also saw the cop pulling over a speeder, probably hoping he wouldn’t have any evening adventures more exciting than that. Looked to me like the driver got off with a warning.)

Again, it reminded me of my childhood, and all the times we’d ride around for hours, and if we had any spare change or cash from mowing lawns or other chores, we’d stop for ice cream at Boy Blue. We, however, would avoid the police because none of us had lights on our bikes, and back then, riding at night without a light meant a reprimand from the local constable.

The night reminded me of my time as a batboy for the local American Legion baseball team, whose coach was my friend’s dad, which made us shoe-ins for the job. We were paid in post-game snacks and sodas, and every now and then, a player would give us a broken bat that we’d take it home and use for our own informal games after driving a nail through the point where it cracked and covering the splinter with tape.

As I walked, I looked up at the streetlights, and they reminded me of the light that streamed gently through my bedroom window every night growing up, an unsolicited but welcome nightlight that became as second nature as the breezes that blew through my window and the trains that passed not 100 yards from our house throughout the night. (I loved all of that, and to this day, I like to have light coming through the window when I sleep, even if it’s just a sliver.)

At just before 9 p.m., the town was still active, but it was obvious things were beginning to wind down, much different than my current pre-dawn “normal,” when the birds begin to chatter to one another, a dog barks in the distance and traffic is a single car or truck passing every 15 or 20 seconds.

I’m glad I chose to walk last night. It gave me a different perspective about the peripheries of the day – dawn vs. dusk – and it brought back so many great memories of my childhood: memories I hope generations today and tomorrow can and will have as they make their way through life … in peace.

© 2022 David R. Haznaw

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