The sun was grazing the treetops along the railroad tracks.
It gets dark too early to wait until we get home, so it was either run then or don't run at all. (The don't-run strategy hasn't worked so well for the past two years.) So with the tops of the barren trees getting less golden by the minute, I went outside.
There's a retaining pond down at the corner of the parking lot, where cattails and brown grasses rustle in the breeze, and weedy things grow near the water's edge. Bird-sounds come from hidden places there, and splashes make you turn and look.
Beyond the pond, there is a fence and in places a rock wall. And beyond them is a woods with paths that twist and turn under the junipers and oaks and elms. I have run those paths before, but today I took the other road that ran along a dike with the train tracks on one side and the woods on the other.
After a while, the path turned and ended at a locked steel gate beyond which was an old railroad crossing with only a stop sign and RR cross-bars. I squeezed myself between the gate and a large rock, and in a few steps and a turn to the right I was in a part of Austin I did not know.
This could have been a road in Michigan where the trees tower over the two lane road and kids ride their bikes out from their driveways. It could have been Illinois, where the prairie continues to grow in constrained isolation along long stretches of railroad right of way.
Here were two looming oaks hanging over me and leafless Possumhaws laden with orange-red berries. To the left were modest houses turning their backs to me, and to the right were tall, dried grasses and stabby brambles growing along the ground.
And look! Here is a well-worn path working its way thru the slice of trackside prairie. Imagine what it must be like in summer with the seven-foot grasses green and full. Imagine the overgrown jungle path. But today, you can see the path with your eyes as it winds around and works up the embankment to the railroad tracks.
And wait! What is that? A hammock. Someone has a hammock hidden in the tall grass. A big one with a wooden frame and a pillow -- enough for several rambunctious kids perhaps, or one person napping, or two.
Whose place was this? I did not know. There, among the grasses and weeds: an isolated spot of serenity.
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