I’ve been in a rut. When this happens, my column ideas get stale, and I find myself taking pictures of the same subjects over and over. The solution was to visit somewhere I’d never been, but when I found a new place, I uncovered a long-forgotten memory.
The place I chose was a rustic park I pass each time I go into Birmingham. I would see the entrance gates and think to myself, “I need to go in there sometimes when I’m not in a hurry.”
This past week, I had an unhurried day, so I drove into the park gate at Five-Mile Creek, which is owned by the City of Graysville. About a quarter-mile from the gate, the road ended at an old concrete bridge crossing the creek.
Rocks as big as a Volkswagen Bug blocked the bridge so that vehicles could not drive over it. Of course the rocks make a perfect canvas for graffiti. The class of 2015 was well represented. The names were proudly scrawled for eternity… or as long as acrylic-based paint lasts.
The city used an old roadbed from the original Highway 78 that closed in the 1950s when the new highway opened. The park was designed for fishing and for launching canoes.
It was peaceful there, aside from the drone of traffic off in the distance. Walking onto the bridge, I stopped midway and leaned over the concrete rail to look at the water 30 feet below. Kudzu grew to the water’s edge in places. The vines had plum-colored blooms that smelled like grape Kool-Aid.
Leaning over the edge, I could see minnows and small-mouth bass playing in the shallow water under the shade of the bridge.
After a while, I headed back toward my truck and when I saw the incline of the old highway, I experienced déjà vu. Then I slowly realized that it wasn’t déjà vu. I had been on this bridge when I was a small child.
My family headed into the city late one afternoon and I was riding in the back seat of our old 47 Chevy. The two-lane road was wet from a light rain.
We were the first car behind a caravan of tractor-trailer trucks that inched up the steep grade as slow as snails. Dad inched toward the centerline to get a look to see how far it was before we could get around the trucks. An oncoming car whooshed by inches from his side window, so he fell back in line.
I got on my knees and turned to look out the back glass. Behind us was a line of traffic as far as I could see. I imagined there were drivers inventing creative new combinations of curse words, but no one tried passing the line of trucks on that hill and if there were blaring horns, I didn’t hear them.
Memories are sometimes buried beneath years of facts, figures, and mountains of useless information. But they are like motion sensor lights that turn on when you walk nearby. Mental treasures triggered not by motion, but by sights, tastes, smells, or sounds. I love it when one of these jewels light up my mind.
Rick Watson is a columnist and author. His latest book Life Changes is available on Amazon.com. You can contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.