A RESETTING

May 20, 2018

By Arthur H. Gunther III

thecolumnrule.com

One snowy evening a long time ago, with the temperature not so low that a walker would freeze and not so high that there would be rainy ice, and with the flakes delicate and inviting, I took a lengthy walk in Hillcrest, N.Y., just to chill — not to be cold but to find a bit of calm, like the purring a contended cat might seek curled up on the couch. (I do think that’s when cats recharge.)

The walk took about two hours, and in those days not one car was met. I made the only tracks down Karnell Street to State to Hillcrest Avenue to Route 45 to Williams Avenue to Hempstead Road to Brick Church to Route 306 to Viola Road to Eckerson to State and back to 25 Karnell.

No high blood pressure in those days, but if there had been, the walk in that magnificent, fresh, descending-from-the-heavens beauty would have dropped me to 100/60. Even the pulse rate would have been low, because in the unmeasured cadence of a leisurely walk I anticipated no surprise, just a real oneness with nature, a private journey that made living worth while. 

Whatever war, poverty, horror, tragedy there was in the world, whatever personal troubles existed for anyone, including me, all would be there when I reached home and the ordinary motor of life again kicked in. There would also be the exhilaration of living, too, the highs, the good works of humankind.

For the moment, though, in those two hours of calm walking in gently falling snow, there was a reset, at least for one person.

I found that just one street into the walk but the true embrace, the needed hug, came as I passed the barn at the Brown orchard near Viola Road. It had stood a long time, it was simplistically beautiful. It especially made the walk a reaffirmation.

The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com 

TAKING TO THE ROAD

By Arthur H. Gunther III

thecolumnrule.com

     Blauvelt to West Nyack, N.Y. — Along the Western Highway, simply named centuries ago because so few roads existed that there was no need to use developers’ favored children’s monikers, a three-mile walk to the great hullabaloo of suburban growth that is a major shopping center brought quiet that you can never get in a car here, even an effortless, whisper-like electric model.
I had an errand to run and someone to meet at a mall, and I drive enough locally to hit 16,000 miles yearly, so, on a decent day, with sun out and the humidity not yet oppressive even in the 70s, I combined exercise with contemplation. It was a trip of nostalgia, history, appreciation and relief. It was also hairy at times since Western Highway is a major road that has endless traffic, no sidewalks in my area and motorists who think they are racing for a pot of gold, so fast they drive.
Western Highway is as famous as many others in roads in this nation. Washington and  Lafayette went down it in wagons. It led to the major Northeast supply depot for the Continental Army. President Martin Van Buren, dining at the Clarksville Inn, came along. Long before that, of course, the original Native Americans forged the trail, and the Dutch built sandstones along it. One such house, the old Leiper manse, was a stopover for U.S. Army personnel and family during World War II, as it was near Camp Shanks, the largest Army embarkation port in the world. The Order of Battle for the D-day invasion was set at Shanks.
When I was a child of the 1940s-’50s, my father would take us to look at Shanks’ remains, then called Shanks Village as it became housing for returning GIs studying under the GI Bill at Columbia University. Situated along  Western Highway, Shanks Village was visited by university President Dwight Eisenhower, who called it “the best damn place to live in the world.”
Also along the road, the Hackensack River wanders in and out of a marsh, or what remains of one after suburban development. Species of the same birds and critters, including long-living turtles, call the marsh home. It offers the greatest peace on Western Highway, for looking at it is the reverse of studying “progress.”
It took just about 40 minutes of my Western Highway walk to get to the hullabaloo of noise, commerce and people that is the area shopping mall, but by then I was fortified enough by the appreciation of what has happened over the centuries along my old road. You see so much more on a walk than a drive.

  The writer is a retired newspaperman who can be reached at ahgunther@yahoo.com. This essay includes earlier writing.

DEDICATED TO GINNY

May 7, 2018

 

By Arthur H. Gunther III

thecolumnrule.com

     In the tucked-away room, in the original attic, was a very tall radiator and a very small rocking chair where the ghost, quite friendly, dwelled much of the time, looking out the long window or seeing through herself in the mirror high above the radiator.

     No one saw the ghost except Ginny’s grandchildren, who, not yet educated away from imagination, knew no boundaries in flight and fancy. In playtime, in alone-time, one or two or three would run up the stairs and into the tucked-away room and exist with the ghost.

     It wasn’t that conversation was exchanged with the ghost, not back and forth-like, but that things, thoughts, feelings were understood. It was like Winnie the Pooh and Christopher Robin, the imaginary world in which a fortifying foundation for the coming rigors of adulthood can be built. 

      The ghost, this friendly non-being, not in the world but also not out of it, was as real to the youngster(s) playing in the tucked-away room as were apple juice and brownies. The children were not afraid, for they had not yet been taught that, and the young are simply accepting.

     Ginny, though well-grown and having lived a long life of responsibility, had come to a time when the rhythm was slower and she could again hear the music of her own childhood. And, so, she put together the tucked-away room in the attic of her Clinton Avenue  home, with a very tall radiator and a very small rocking chair.

     She knew, as surely as she saw the curtain drawing, that her own reality would become something else, perhaps akin to that of unfettered childhood. Ginny herself might enter the tucked-away room and know the ghost, too.

     Her grandchildren were never in doubt there, though the door would beckon as adulthood neared, and Ginny would enter as they departed.

     The writer is a retired newspaperman. ahgunther@yahoo.com