We don’t usually walk in the evening, but we did tonight. The air felt different, tired and used, perhaps, as if it too needed a rest after rising and falling and swirling around all day.
I saw several people I had never seen before, including a doughy couple who merely grunted a greeting as they climbed a slight hill. Garage doors were open that are never open in the morning, revealing the personality of their owners, some with tools carefully arranged and floors swept clean and others ramshackle and loved, full of excess. One young couple emerged from a stodgy home that I would never have associated with youth, one I always expected a sweet but elderly couple to ambulate.
Some homes took on a different hue in the slanted light of evening, warmer and more alive than in the hours after dawn, awake. Crossing the creek, even the water sounded different, slower, less effervescent, pensive, navigating carefully. On Winthrop, five rabbits took a late supper at a squirrel feeder inches off the ground. Seeing us, hearing the thud of our shoes on asphalt, they retreated a few feet, watched us carefully until we moved away.
As the light falls, she is praying, and I am trying to join the conversation, nodding, agreeing, while watching for little revelations, special in their own way. Occasionally I join the conversation, one punctuated, easily, by parentheticals of explanation. On one block she runs down the four lane to navigate a low hanging bush before traffic, as I say “I can’t make it,” suddenly winded. She says she will wait for me on the other side. But somehow I make it before the cars stream by. On one daunting hill, I say, “I will be slow tonight,” winded again. “I just don’t have the same energy at night.” She slows and meets my pace. We reach the top and eventually I can speak again. But there is no need to. It is enough to walk with her.
In a small book I bought when last in Wichita, The Joys of Walking, Edwin Mitchell collects a number of essays on walking by the likes of Charles Dickens, Henry David Thoreau, and Hilaire Belloc, among others. I think of it as darkness settles in, as these writers often walked nocturnally and had a power of seeing that I doubt many of us have today, given our distracted lives. In one essay I thumbed back to later, Leslie Stephen says that “Walking is the natural recreation for a man who desires not absolutely to suppress his intellect but to turn it out to play for a season.” I commend it for that, for a play for the mind. And for prayer. And with your best friend. And at dusk as well as dawn.