I found a new favorite path in the neighborhood. It winds around between streets, criss-crossing a stream and at times folding in on itself like a pretzel. The foliage is favorable for snakes, and considering the sighting of a five-foot rat snake earlier in the week, I tread solicitously on the edge of the tall grass, using scurrying lizards as a kind of scout warning system. So far no snakes, but lots of other creatures: butterflies, moths, lizards (as I said), and, of course, grackles. The other day I walked the path and ended up way down the street, much farther than I thought I had walked. It’s funny how distances are so dependent on blocks in a normal city life that when one walks a diagonal or a zig-zag beside trees and grasses one’s sense of direction and space seem heavily warped. I walked at a very leisurely pace for about five minutes and ended up about ten blocks from my starting point. You see a city differently when you explore it a non-right angles.
I plan to travel this path every day for a while, noticing all the changes and all the lives that are played out even in such a small space. Will I see the same lizards, day after day? Will I recognize them?
There’s an activity I do with the groups of kids I work with, where I give them a rope and they lay it out in a circle in the grass, and then they get down on the ground with a magnifying glass and count how many forms of life they can count in their little circle of earth. They are typically amazed at how many beings they can list just in their tiny zone: grasses and insects and moss and flowers, sometimes even a worm or a mushroom make an appearance. The point of the exercise is to get kids to see each patch of earth not as a lifeless, inanimate clump, but as a rich habitat for countless interdependent creatures. My walks on this path will be similar; I’ll tread a much larger circle but the idea will still be to document the universe within it.