The Red Earth of Tara
Atlanta sidewalks elude the average pedestrian, and those in existence could be considered an adventure in putting one foot in front of the other. Along the few streets I have strolled on the outskirts of the southern city, wide swaths of uneven terrain serve as the only pedestrian thoroughfare. One concrete walkway that I attempted to navigate banked at nearly thirty degrees and my ability to stay on the path took on more challenges that the alternative rugged version. Stairs would serve as an easier ascension than the options provided by the Georgian capital.
At one intersection, where the sidewalks extend no more than twenty feet from the crosswalks and then transition to grass, the dirt beneath the dying winter brush washed out from under the minimal growth and clumps clinging to the edge of the curbs leaving a low pile of reddish sludge along the edge of the crossings. As I watched my step to avoid the muddy pile, I considered Scarlett O’Hara’s testament and loyalty to the plantation that may have stood on similar soil. The familiar color of the southern soil streaked its way into the busy street and if it were not for the occasional pedestrian like me willing to dodge the bustling cars and trucks, no one might notice or ever give credit to the former red earth of Tara draining away into the city sewers.
Clearly I am not afraid to tackle a metropolis by foot, and as I pull up to the city center in a suburb west of St. Louis, I discover a noticeably large quantity of available parking that might not be available on a weekday. One of the restaurants in the vicinity displays an a-frame sign to notify the minimal number of passers by that a private event eliminates the opportunity for any random tourists such as myself to enjoy its offerings. I determine by my brilliant powers of observation that the event has already concluded as the centerpiece of its décor lay melting near the storm drain below the sidewalk.
When zipping past in a motor vehicle, such sculptures easily avoid attention, but as I wait for my lunch companion, I realize that somewhere the artwork of a craftsman has been kicked to the curb by those who briefly have enjoyed its presence. In defense of the revelers, where would an ice sculpture meet its demise and return to its liquid state? Where else would the remnants of an agrarian society drain away when its usefulness has gone with the wind? The streets of busy cities carry traffic – vehicles rushing to their destinations – and occasionally a wayward pedestrian exploring on foot, but also the earth and water of the planet flowing towards a forgotten end. Often a collection of footsteps captures a moment lost to history.