It has been two weeks since Mark and I walked on a Sunday morning. Today made three but I decided late in the morning to go to Hardberger Park for a walk. We’ve had a few cool days but today started a little warmer than normal at around 60 degrees. The grayness of the sky gave the walk a winter feel despite the mild temperature.
Most of the trees have lost their leaves and many of the bushes joined the trees in their nakedness. The ground cover has started to change brown, but significant green remains. Green never disappears during a normal South Texas winter. The loss of foliage reveals many fallen trees, some due to nature and some due to park maintenance. These remnants are left where they fall to rot in place. Some of the man-made tree trimmings are lined parallel to the paths or nearby in straight lines, also left to decay in the park. The neatness of the straight line piles belies the primitive feel to most of the park but also hints at some reason or plan.
Although I walked at my normal fast pace it was a reflective walk. Only a few other people were out and I wasn’t hampered by bikers, dogs or other walkers. The thinning wooded landscape reveals how close the trail is to the parkway. Previously I had noted only two or three glances of the parkway. Now long stretches are visible and a group of homes can be seen through the trees. Roadway sounds are more noticeable, more annoying. I looked and found signs of small animal trails through the brush.
Signs of the various paths through which rain water flows are apparent. Rocks line these tell-tale water paths as they meander towards the two or three larger park creeks that feed Salado Creek. Salado Creek can be a killer during the torrential South Texas thunderstorms. Today the feeders of Salado Creek seem incapable of being part of a larger deadly entity. Grassy and muddy, harmless. But sudden storms will morph these shallow dips in the land into the source of flooded streets and worse.
Winter has bared the park to outside view. It is no longer an isolated realm, no longer an escape for the city-dweller to pretend he or she is in the country. The barren park reveals more of itself to the walker. Life and death exist side by side. A bird flies by seeking some seed or insect. Deer nestle hidden in the deeper reaches of the park, seen earlier this year but not today. Perhaps the scent of dogs has driven smaller animals further away.
The quiet grayness of the park creates an artificial scene, painted by an unseen artist. A pause to inhale the earthy scent of rotting leaves and trees hint at a once living place. I patiently wait to see the park go dormant as winter deepens; winter will surely pass and spring will bring life.
Hardberger Park once again will hide the outside and I can pretend I am in the country once again.
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