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  • A Reminiscence From A Past Vernal Equinox.

    THE WIND bore the initial excitement – a March wind, all right, crisp, with sharp edges. But it carried the softer, damper warmth and fecundity of April as well.

    This excitement was not lost on a desk-weary Reading lawyer wandering and blinking in a sun-drenched noon hour, looking for a bit of clarity and perspective.

    Restlessness – that’s the stuff. Had it all my life, but never so strong as in early spring. It sends me wandering in this season, in forgotten, inelegant places, the wildernesses of civilization.

    This madness first came upon us – my wife and me – at midnight on Saint Patrick’s Day. Our daughter, Lindsay, one of George Meiser’s sixth-graders in the West Reading Elementary School, had inveigled us into attending the traditional memorial ceremony at Tom Hannahoe’s gravesite on the side of Neversink Mountain.

    As we gathered around the humble tombstone and the brass band played The Lass of Galway and Nearer, my God, to Thee, we looked down the hill at the city lights.

    That midnight, we felt the pull of something, well, elemental, or more so than what we were used to, a force of friendship, ritual, history, and tradition which made the day’s frantic telephonings, scribblings on legal pads, meetings, dictations, proofreadings of correspondence and documents seem tame stuff indeed.

    It called us back to that place.
  • AND SO it happened that I finished my business in the office early one Friday, and went wandering once again, in the manner of my youth, in one of the little, littered but somehow curiously unspoiled wildernesses of our civilization, on the side of Neversink Mountain.

    As a kid, in my solitary wanderings, I often pondered the leavings of humanity in these little oases of wilderness inhabited only by other solitary souls who passed, as they thought, anonymously. In fact, the junk they left behind them told a story. Artifacts, after all, are artifacts, whether trash or treasure.

    So, in my youth, I read humble humanity’s story in big trash – like abandoned cars and appliances, and in little trash – like old newspapers and magazines, rusting tin cans (now supplanted by eternal aluminum cans, plastic bottles, and styrofoam cups), and shards of brown, green, blue or clear glass, some bearing cryptic legends such as “CONTENTS 10 FL. OZ”.

    Among such artifacts I wandered again that afternoon, with my wife (a definite improvement over the solitariness of my boyhood) and our big smiling shepherd-collie dog Schaeffer, contemplating some of the jokes life plays on us as we pass through it.

    My life seemed as dry, dusty, and inflammable as the woods, and as mundane as the junk I picked up and examined but somehow, too, as fresh, promising and exciting as the wind.

    It wasn’t really a road we followed, but a dirt track crisscrossed with the patterns of motocross bike treads, more of mankind’s spoor in this urban wilderness. From a wire-rope barrier between stone pillars at the side of the cemetery, it seemed to shoot straight uphill, into a vagueness of sandy soil, underbrush, bare trees, cracked and broken shale, blue sky, and mountain laurel.

    Below us spread the city, as pretty as any cityscape in the world viewed from an Olympian perspective, all roof lines, back yards, side yards, dog runs, playgrounds, churches, schools, offices, and industrial buildings. Our town. Adopted, to be sure, but Our Town, warts and all, with blue-gray hills in the distance, and a perfect, geometrical half-moon in the sky overhead.
  • THE WIND did not whisper in the bare trees; it roared. It still made its winter sound, untempered by leaves on the branches – mournful, wild. We sweated gloriously and the dog panted and sniffed with ecstasy as we climbed, reveling in the wind that could sound so cold yet caress our bodies so warmly.

    Children laughed and shouted as they played below us. The sound sparkled in the wind. Tomorrow’s Saturday! they seemed to say; Tomorrow’s Saturday, and we’re as wild and free and warm as the wind!

    Perhaps not quite that free, but free enough for the moment, we wandered, knowing a little more about the cost at which such freedom is bought. We passed a solitary soul who sat with his duffel bag and a faraway look in his eyes at the edge of the trail. I reeled in the dog; the man sitting beside the trail did not greet us, nor did we him.

    Four friendly young men begged our pardon, graciously, each in his own way, as they rode past on their motocross bikes – except the last, who did so twice, smiling because he had forgotten his sunglasses.

    Some of the artifacts we found – spent shotgun shells and an empty Thunderbolt .22 long rifle ammunition box – warned us the mountain could be a perilous place. But most simply told us people had passed this way before.

    Like generation upon generation before them, they had left bits of their culture behind, unthinking, unknowing, for the archaeologists and palaeontologists and other bone-hunters and litter-pickers of the future – including a middle-aged lawyer and his wife walking their dog – to discover and ponder in the warm, windy excitement of an afternoon in late March, on the threshold of April and the spring of another year.
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