I had forgotten how beautiful my neighborhood can be in November. Between my recent increasing dread of the cold weather’s unstoppable approach, and looking forward to an extended visit next week with some friends at a cabin in the North Georgia mountains, I almost missed experiencing the glorious afternoon of November 9th in the small corner of the world I am lucky enough to live in.
I had whiled away the morning mostly inside the house, blissfully immersed in reading a collection of the published letters of the writer Sylvia Townsend Warner. Having momentarily looked up from my book and noticed how beautiful the day had gotten, I decided – somewhat reluctantly, as STW’s letters are so mesmerizing – to take a modest stroll around the neighborhood. I thought I might bicycle over to The Atlanta Beltline, but I knew from experience that the Beltline is better enjoyed on a weekday, when the path isn’t thronged with crowds of other bikes and strollers – the human kind and the mechanical kind. So I decided instead to take a walk.
Automatically I headed for what I assumed would be a short ramble in the park just a block away from my house. Quickly deciding to walk a bit further than usual, I eventually happened upon an also-strolling neighbor, Edi Kellman. She told me how to find a path she’d just taken through some nearby woods to property owned by Paideia, a private school on the far side of the park.Today, said Edi, I’d find a flock of sheep imported into the woods to devour some of the its weeds. After leaving Edi, I found the path she’d mentioned (a path I hadn’t known about, so I was already glad for that bit of information). In due course, I came upon the weed-grazing sheep. One of them:
At that point, I’d emerged from the newly found woodsy path into the edge of Druid Hills, the Atlanta beautifully landscaped residential neighborhood next to Candler Park. The walking, the weather, and what I was seeing were so pleasant that I decided to continue onto a walking path that winds through a set of five adjacent small parks designed by Frederick Olmstead.
Many of the trees I passed on my walk today still have their green leaves, and it will be a few weeks yet before the colors of Atlanta’s tree canopy meld into its final caramel-covered glory. But today, every color that exists flashed around me on my walk: lots of lemon-yellow oak leaves, the neon crimsons of the plentiful Japanese maples, purple berries sprouting from an unusually large stand of beautyberry bushes, everything crowned by the startlingly deep turquoise of an immaculate sky.
As my stroll morphed into an urban hike (well, perhaps a mere urban hike-lette), I couldn’t help but realize – for maybe the twentieth time this year? – how miraculous is the sheer mobility of the human body. (I know several friends or relatives who walk only with difficulty, and a few who can’t walk at all these days.) My thoughts of body-related gratitude usually have to do with the miracle of eyesight (and how it allows me to, among other things, read things like Sylvia Townsend Warner’s letters), but today’s gratitude thoughts were joined by my thankfulness that I am still capable of walking around in nature and soaking up all the beauty that it offers anyone lucky enough to be able to get out and walk around in some of it.