Long and Winding Roads
Not the story, though. Something else.
Roads are interesting things.

In many ways, the six-lane highways and little winding country roads that cross our country, our cities and our neighbourhoods, aren't just barren constructs of asphalt and tarmac. They are the veins and arteries of our lives, as they've always been; the net that binds everything together and cinches it up tight into cohesion.

Paths are more than just a way to get from place to place. They're not just random walks sketched out in sidewalks and boulevards until they reach a destination. Even if they meander, the paths we take become worn in, burnt in formic chemical trail until we could follow the well-trod lines with our eyes closed.

Here are some of the paths I remember:

Up the hill to the houses where the officers lived, past the water tower, and a steep slope reaching up to chain-link fence--a ley-line ridge to the schoolhouse flagpole where on aimless fall days the pecking orders formed in bouts of wrestling and giggles--or then back again, gradual descent through spiderwebs and buttercups to catch that first invigorating glimpse of home.

Four turns, and a skipping walk on brisk mornings; muggy afternoons buoyed by thoughts of freedom. Straight-cut paths lined by trees; a left right angle cut before a barking German Shepherd dog I always wanted to pet. Selling popcorn door-to-door in those heady hedonistic days when people still bought things from small children in eager uniform, and all of us in the troop beat roundly by the girl scouts whose charm we never learnd to master.

Cold and then colder dawns as time dragged on through the winter, along languid biking trails to watch a mountain range burn itself into existence on the crest of a hill, with the whole scene shot through the rose-coloured glasses that mark the promise of a morning; slipping past fellow knowledge-seekers with chill-fogged breath like a fleet of steam engines to gain the heavy doors of an ivy-snared lecture hall.

E-470, a massive curling sprawl cutting north and around in unloved prairie where one could see bald eagles and coyotes still--and then driving back, 36 to 270 to 225 to Parker to home, a new album bleeding through the speakers every day from a radio I installed myself, showering the inside of the car once with golden sparks of blissful ineptitude.

These I can close my eyes and still percieve--some dimly; some clear as if they were yesterday. But there is a melancholy to this, too, a steady beating realisation. These paths--and others surely course along them now--are not mine anymore. Where once they were second-nature, journeys taken by muscle memory, now they're just memories--and memories are never the same.

The best that can happen is that some day hence, I will show these roads to my children, these experiences that time dismantles in its impersonal, inexorable way. And they will smile, perhaps, and nod with that way that children have. But it will never have the resonance, the meaning, the smooth sensation of a well-worn glove. It will never be the warm feeling of summer to them, the comfort of being home, the promise of a future yet unwritten. And I will know then that sad, cruel fact, that memories last a person only.

So we consign the ways of yesteryear. It's how things go. And this is, indeed, what progress means; sundering chains past, surrendering to the great, grim, inevitable senility of history. It is an unavoidable consequence, to be sure--but as the paths blink out, in that faltering stroke of remembrance lost, what does it leave us? We might look on, then, faces slack while the neurons rewire, as the cycle repeats, until the new becomes familiar again.

Or might we never recover?

/a
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