Why, here, did a car stray from the road? Surely it wasn’t to pave the way for pedestrians – we have two feet, but can only follow one path. Our feet move close together, and together, with other feet, they make a single line, not two. And yet, together, our feet have kept both lines strong. Following in the footsteps of a beast without feet, we have continued its trail.
The line finds a curve at the baseball diamond – rounds out the corners, caresses the bleachers from a distance. A softening, and at the same time, the suggestion of force – as if the path were a curve ball hurtling through the air, barely missing the feet of the spectators. What if we left paths as we moved through the air, not only when walking over grass? Halos, or ghosts, pale behind us, hovering at every place that we find reason to pause.
“topoanalysis, then, would be the systematic psychological study of the sites of our intimate lives” (Bachelard 8)
As I drag my feet along this way, I leave no stone unturned – the gravel rolls under my tired shoes, sounding the words that they might speak if they had lips as well as a tongue. Horses are said to move faster as they near their stables, as if home is always desirable over all other places. Here, an urge to get home has shortened the route – or was it in leaving that this path was made? Sunrise and sunset look the same in a photograph, and a path tells no tales of which way it began – only where it is now. This is not my home; I am neither coming nor going, only passing through. As I step off the path, the gravel falls silent, and my feet drag on.
Do the paths wander, peripatetic, as the people do? Do their feet ramble, as these words do, off course, moving the path with the wandering of their minds? Does the line seek ever greener grass, to make it grey? If we could see time, would the paths snake over the landscape, wriggling their way through our city, worming their way down to its very core? Perhaps we find the core at the surface, in these squiggling lines as they unravel themselves, tracing something as inconcrete as motion, and bringing it to life – the absence of grass every bit as alive as the green blades.
I follow the path, well-worn, down to the river’s bank, where it opens onto a sandy shoal. The water sparkles where it enters the river – clean from the water treatment centre. They say that the river that leaves our city is cleaner than the river that enters it. I walk towards the water’s edge – there are no other footprints, mine will be the first – and I sink deep. The wet sand swallows my feet, my ankles, my calves, and I’m up to my knees in mud. The water continues to sparkle, laughing. This is why there were no other footprints – why the path ended at the edge of the sand. I laugh too, pulling my legs out of the ground. I pull pages from my notebook and use them to wipe away the worst of the mud, and then I step carefully, testing the ground at each step, finding a firm way to the water. I sit down on a large rock, remove my shoes, and dip my feet in. The mud falls away into the water, and I begin to wash my shoes as well. The dirt of this path and others comes away in the river, and settles on its bed. When I put my shoes back on, my feet feel lighter; free.