Normally, I include a picture with all of my posts. Not today. Erica, over at The Daily Post, pointed out that with the prevalence of camera phones, we’ve gained the ability to visually capture any moment at any given point in time. But, in the meantime, have we lost the ability to capture the same moment in words? In this week’s Weekly Writing Challenge, Erica dares us to put down the iPhone and pick up a pen to record a moment we’d like to remember. “Using words only, take a snapshot of the experience.”
I pause for a moment near the lake, only a mile or so into my four-mile loop around the neighborhood. From the roadway crossing the dam, I hop the shiny metal guardrail and pick my way over shoebox-size rocks to a peeling wooden bench overlooking the northeast corner of the lake. It is quiet back here at this time of morning; commuters have long since hit the highway, the school bus has already picked up all of its pint-sized passengers, and even though it’s a weekday, it’s still a bit too early for the considerate to shatter the calm with the drone of their leaf-blowers.
Ahead, on the glassy surface of the lake, a lone mallard tows a V-shaped wake as he moves with purpose toward the far shore, where canoes offer their colorful bellies like worshipful beachgoers, despite a lack of warmth from the weak wintery light. The mallard’s journey disrupts the crystal clear reflection of corpulent pewter-shaded clouds jockeying against each other to conceal wayward patches of pale blue sky. Read from the surface of the lake, the weather forecast looks even less promising than the radio DJ predicted earlier.
In the patch of woods off to my left, a pair of fuzzy grey squirrels chase each other in a tight spiral down the trunk of an aged oak tree, claws scritching against time-worn bark. Bare trees of every species stand ankle-deep in fallen leaves, a rustly, crackly hunting ground for half a dozen black-faced juncos. Try as I might, I cannot detect even the faintest whiff of oak, pine, or maple rising as the tiny birds stir the leaves in their search for insects and seeds. The crisp, dry winter air that is stinging my cheeks and making my nose run has body-slammed the scent of autumn like a wrestler pinning his opponent to the mat.
Suddenly my subconscious registers the sound of a far-off train whistle. In all the years I’ve lived here, I’ve never heard a train before. Strange. While I know that technically my neighborhood can’t be too far off from the rails that carry passengers and freight north and south between Washington and Richmond, I’m not exactly sure where the tracks are. This puzzle gives me the impetus I need to rise from my bench and continue my journey around the lake towards home. Google Maps and a steaming mug of English breakfast tea await.