Spontaneity in Neighborhood Walks: A Winter’s Tale

Two different walks on two different days spur two different developments.


Cadence Chen

This photo was taken on January 25th, 2021 at 4:17 p.m.; it is similar to what I saw from my bedroom window in Bayside, Queens on January 11th, 2021 at 3:13 p.m. The slated, gabled rooftops complement a muted blue sky.

Monday, January 11th, 2021, 3:12 p.m., 32°F

My shadowed room refused visibility. I had just gotten out of eight back-to-back periods of synchronous learning while running on three hours of sleep, lavender face spritz, and TheraTears. With a twist of my window blinds, delicate afternoon light fell onto my pupils. It looked like a nice day.

Attempting to avoid another time-cutting nap, I overcame the ache in my bones and grew an ache for a walk around my neighborhood. I exchanged my gray sweatpants for black jeans and donned my Taylor Swift sweater and winter coat over my Taylor Swift t-shirt. As I laced up my ankle boots, a montage of different scenarios I believed would be kindly thrust upon me ran through my mind:

I would bump into a teal sweater-wearing stranger, who I would then join in chasing down a nefarious neighbor. While I crossed the street, I would furiously type out an idea for my novel onto my phone with a furious driver honking in the backdrop. The wayward ticking of the community clock would catch my attention, and soon enough, my hands would cradle a rusty watch. It would have the weight of a histrionic past that waits for my discovery. Or the trees would call to me, and I could pen a poem for a homeowner to find a century later, hidden in a crack on the attic floors I haunt. That would be fun, too.

Shutting the door behind me, I looped my mask around my ears, and I was ready.

While I thumped down my front yard’s stairs, I surveyed the view before me: an array of houses (I can’t make enemies with my neighbors), winter trees (there’s nothing there), and a streetlight (okay… What was I ready for again?). I guess every promising adventure begins like this.

I turned left on my street. New factors were guaranteed to appear, right? The sights were the same as what I had seen on my last walk and the walk before that and the walk three weeks ago. Was there a new neighbor moving in? A squirrel to chase? Not even a flower to pick?

This photo was taken on February 17th, 2021 at 4:32 p.m. at the site described below. The scattered sheets of snow were not present on the January 11th, 2021 walk. I stood in the sectioned-off middle of the street with the row of trees towering over me. This change of visual perspective, however, could not shake my feeling of indifference with all the modern-day distractions surrounding me. (Cadence Chen)

Memorized sights meant memorized routes. I crossed over to the middle of the street, where a row of trees stood solemnly. Cars choked the road and made their head-turning turns. My phone beeped. My nipped fingers rummaged through tight jacket pockets. My history teacher assigned an essay due next week.

My boot thrust upon a tree trunk. If I hit the tree hard enough, maybe my boots would leave an indentation for sparrows to claim or a sound for leaves to soak up. Except no birds flitted among the weeds or perched themselves up on a branch, and no branch dared to shelter a leaf or allow one to dangle in the midst of winter’s draining.

With all its dispirited spirit, my neighborhood hollowed out my beguiled mental lightning bolts and left them to decay in the soil. I would not run from a falling chandelier or peer behind bushes at a shadowy figure in a trench coat and fedora. No one leaves their home, and there are no bushes here. Just weeds, grass, and dirt.

Monday, January 18th, 2021, 4:35 p.m., 37°F

I stared into emanating blue light, mildly regretting having watched four films on Sunday. If I’m halfway through this, then I can read the chapter for English after dinner. I’ll be done with everything by 12 if I really

The light plunged sharp prongs into my eyes.

To avoid click-clacking on about why the structure of my assigned reading can be characterized as “engaging and easily digestible,” my meandering feet led me to my mom’s beckoning room.

The lights were off except for the lamp above her desk. She was gone, probably toasting bread downstairs. Reddish-orange light spilled slightly through the shuttered blinds. The glowing fringes contained the magnetism of a corps de ballet, so I peeked through. It was a tender, alluring kind of violence.

I relaxed my grip on the blinds and turned around. In the middle of the room, I stood motionless. The swinging blinds were settling, eclipsing the shaft of sunset that belonged to no one but felt like it should have slid into my palms. I would lose this light — one I had yet to prescribe a meaning to — if I didn’t chase it.

As I walked down the steps of my front yard, the first sight to capture my attention was these clouds drifting between two homes near my own. Despite the striking beauty I experienced from my mom’s room, that perspective from behind a window and two floors up had diminished the up-close vitality bursting out from the clouds. (Cadence Chen)

In navy sweatpants, a black and white striped t-shirt, a surprisingly kempt flannel from middle school, and a fuzzy jacket my mom lent me earlier that afternoon, I dug through the chest of summer shoes.

My boots would take too long to lace. As I knotted my laces, the sky could turn a misty gray. I slipped into my grandma’s oversized slippers and out the door. Nature waits for no one.

My whooshing body collided against the gales. The sun was as high as ever. Between two houses, the clouds dipped in smiling lava drifted as if they were a group of friends heading home after a cherishing day. I finally forgave the trees for their barrenness, because now they were a union of magic-bearing, cloak-wearing witches.

During the other days that I had gone on a walk, I had always felt an inclination to walk down the middle of a road, but an approaching vehicle’s headlights would glare at me like judgmental eyes. Looking forward and back, the road was vacant. I sauntered over and stood there.

Standing in the middle of the road, the newfound wildness before my eyes brought forth a semblance of peace to my overwhelmed heart. (Cadence Chen)
(Cadence Chen)

There was a clenching of all wind, all dust, all air. No other human  dog walkers, skateboarders, drivers in training — was there to confirm my existence; I had to do it myself. At this moment, I didn’t think about napping, and I had nothing due tomorrow morning.

This was not exuberance or power or immortality, and I can’t say the world was my oyster. But I was content.

Afraid that rime would emerge at my fingertips, I skipped back to the sidewalk, so careful as to not trip in my grandma’s slippers. It was ephemeral, but I live to meet an ending.

This was outside my bedroom window on January 18th, 2021 at 4:49 p.m and taken after the events described. Glorious purple-pink tones create an artistic background for the humdrum rooftops. (Cadence Chen)

Attempting to avoid another time-cutting nap, I overcame the ache in my bones and grew an ache for a walk around my neighborhood.