By Beth Armstrong
My walk began just as dusk slowly arrives in its quite gentle way.
The elegant black iron streetlights starting to flicker on. A boy in board shorts, wet towel hanging loosely around his neck whizzes by on his bike leaving a waft of chlorine in his wake. I have no
specific route in mind, it’s an evening for meandering. But eventually I find myself drawn to my beloved grandmother’s Cape Cod house. It is tiny, white with blue shutters, built in 1946 just after the war—rumor has it paid for with money my grandfather won playing craps on the returning troop ship.
The weather has finally broken, the night cools as a slight breeze rustles around me and the dog Callie – a dog named after my grandmother’s own Irish tribe, the Callahan’s. The large maples and oaks lining the streets create a womblike canopy casting deep shadows over the well-kept lawns. I feel protected, embraced by these towering monoliths.
When the darkness fully and finally descends, it allows the interior lights of the houses to illuminate the lives within. Huge television screens cast bluish light through gauzy curtains and I think to myself, “Ahhh, come outside, smell and feel this—surely you won’t remember that program at the end of your life.”
I skirt around my grandparents house and continue on to the street where I grew up. In our next-door neighbors’ yard, the massive oak still stands guard – spreading its branches over near-by homes as if a mother gathering her brood of children into the safety of her arms. Every autumn as a child this tree gave us its brown withered leaves and acorns for building forts and ammunition.
I close my eyes, breathing deeply, and I am eight years old or nine or ten. The cicadas and crickets are joyous in their chorusing, and I wonder, “Are these the offspring of the cicadas and crickets I heard as a child?”
I wonder too just as I pass in front of my childhood home, glancing up at my old bedroom window, “Is there a little girl at this very moment on this very street curled up in bed, savoring a good book, listening to these melodious night creatures through the whirr of a window fan?” And will she walk these streets 40 years from now as I do at this very moment and be thankful for the gift of a summer night?
After having spent 30 years in the zoo world—first as a gorilla keeper then as a field conservation coordinator for both the Columbus and Brevard Zoos—Beth Armstrong now focuses on photography and writing, including her recently self-published children’s book, “Bongo’s Story,” about the birth of the first mother-reared gorilla at the Columbus Zoo. Born and raised in Clintonville, she is continually charmed by this city and all that it offers.