Taking a stroll down an alley

Early in the holiday season, before the snow came, my wife and I would get out, move about, stroll — occasionally walk at a pace — enjoying the fresh air and the festive decorations displayed around our fair city.

We viewed small Christmas displays, large ones, and many in between. Some were related to the house’s size or the size of a home’s yard, but many weren’t. There were extensive displays in small yards, small displays in large yards, and homes with yards both large and small that displayed nothing but themselves.

We enjoyed them all. Though we missed the colorful lights a nighttime view would have provided, we could see more, better, in daylight.

Though some residences were not so grand as others, many were equally impressive because of the unique ways in which their owners had improved them. I was surprised at the degree of attractiveness gained by simple strokes of originality.

Walking around, rather than driving around, is more conducive to looking around, and gets you off the street and out of traffic.

Initially, when we would prepare to go for a walk, I believed we would go for a walk. But that’s not the way it turned out.

My wife puts her coat on and moves out the door, but her motivation is to observe things; walking is secondary — she strolls. Strolling is more conducive to observing than is walking. Walking just to walk without taking time to observe is not her thing.

The result is we mostly stroll as she points out things I should be observing.

This works fine most of the time. She notices things about the design of houses I never would, for she knows more about house design than I do. She also knows more about many other things we observe, for there are many things I failed to observe that I should have.

For a break from the intensity of it all, I suggested we stroll down an alley. There are things in alleys I know about, things I wanted to observe.

At first, my wife was not receptive to an alley stroll, but her interest had been piqued, and, as we strolled along, she began to notice those two-track paths of singular attraction. Eventually, we encountered one she thought worthy of a stroll, so down this alley we went — observing.

There are unique things in alleys.

There are rabbits in hutches, chickens in coops, swing sets, bottle trees, and old carriage houses. Seasoned building materials, boats old and new, cars that no longer run — or, if they do, don’t appear to — existing there by love and faith.

Many garden sheds are close to the alley. Some are large enough for a table and a chair or two, offering a clearer, saner view than what can be seen out front — the trash in alleys not being gilded.

Birds are in the alleys. They rest on utility lines shared with squirrels who move freely from yard to yard carrying nuts — honest brokers everyone.

Some people mow their lawns on into the alley — a smooth stretch of inviting green — but many alley sections are not so well-tended. Still, these unattended sections have their attractions: milkweed, wild berries and wildflowers, unique grasses, bushes — some with burrs. Rhubarb grows in alleys.

To travel down an alley is to take a shortcut, even though it may take you longer to get where you’re going — depends on what you’re looking for. If it’s truth you seek to keep you free, you’ll find some in the alley.

There are fewer Christmas decorations there, but you’re less likely to encounter a mob seeking to destroy our hopes for peace on earth.

There’s always been some sadness out front. Now, you can also find it in the alley.

Doug Pugh’s “Vignettes” runs weekly on Saturdays. He can be reached at pughda@gmail.com.


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