Bay Reflections

Vol. 8, No. 29
July 20-26, 2000
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Slow Down
by Bo Sinnlich

My walk on this prime Chesapeake evening began, as always, with delight in the beauty of the marshes and Bay. It had stormed yesterday and this morning, but now what was left was a pearlescent gray-mauve sky tinted here and there with coral and saffron and punctuated with deep blue clouds rolling off to the horizon. The red-winged blackbirds warbled like water through a flute as I walked, and I was glad to be stretching my legs after an afternoon of gardening.

However, I always walk Route 261 between Rose Haven and North Beach with a bit of trepidation. I know I will see at least one creature that has been killed by a car every trip. A robin, no longer jaunty, legs at an awkward angle. Squirrels are the most common, their quick flashing energy now stilled. And muskrat mating season brings dread for me: I walk one way and see them leaping off the bank as I pass, leaving their little muskratty trails of underwater bubbles. Then, on my return, two or even three lie crumpled in the road Some people tell me they dart out so fast, it is hard to miss them. But I have seen mallards hit too, and they do not dart; they waddle.

I must confess to violent fantasies: I am a witch who, with lightning bolt, stops a speeding car. (I also have a fantasy about putting a charm on the road so that when litter is thrown out it bounces back and attaches to the thrower, but that’s another story.) I know, though, that more violence is not the answer.

Today breaks the cracks each of these lifeless bodies have left in my heart even deeper. As I approach, I don’t at first recognize the large white mass stretched across the grasses. And then, with a sick feeling, I focus. One of the two swans that have lived in our marsh for a few years now, raising cygnets each season. Just last week I had walked on the boardwalk, and the two had flown over, wings in perfect tandem, necks outstretched side by side, breathtakingly beautiful together. I know it’s silly to anthropomorphize, but they seemed a symbol of partnership to me. One of them was now alone.

Where are we all headed in such a hurry that destruction of such beauty is commonplace?
I, myself, am guilty on workdays along Route 4 of looking to see that my needle has hit 65 miles per hour. And the people rushing by on Route 261 are not just the teenagers who laugh (and even swerve sometimes) at me when I yell at them to slow down. They are women who look like mothers, or men with Save the Bay plates, couples in vans with kids. They are regular people like you and me. Most wear glazed looks on their faces, not seeing the red of cardinal flashing through green trees or the sapphire of bluejay in mid-swoop.

We all spend so much time in a hurry. It’s a wonder we remember to breathe.
Our culture distances us from being in our bodies, from knowing that we, too, are animals. Television, computers, virtual reality, cell phones: they all carry us into some disembodied state, where we ricochet about at high revs. It’s hard to smell the roses when you’re moving at the speed of light.

Maybe if I were a witch, rather than throw lightning bolts, the answer would be to gently place a baby duck in the driver’s palm or point out how the tree bark is like a cinnamon stick in the light of dusk. And I would say, ‘Slow down. Breathe. Feel. Listen. Smell. Life is right here, right now, not just at the end of the road.’

Sinnlich escapes Washington each weekday to reflect in Bay Country. She is becoming a regular in Bay Weekly.

Copyright 2000
Bay Weekly