The Maple’s leaves are pink and light green, curled in embryonic shape at the edge of the McDonald’s lot, someplace in Alabama. Tending to two traveling dogs, I’m a researcher of these hinterland edges. These are the places where swaths of green homogeneous turf meets bramble and wildflower punctuated with overgrown bits of trash. Here at the crease there seems just a whiff, a memory… of past identity?…History? Call it a sense of place of place that lingers at these edges. Bulldozers with topsoil can only cover so much. They are weak opponents for that which has lived here a long time. The land will always talk if you stop to listen. Dogs listen, even when I forget.
The golden arches don’t mean lunch to this contingent. McD’s food is untouchable, but the corporate penchant for cleanliness is not. They are the double blessings of good coffee and clean bathrooms without the dingy drama of gas stations. The magical dog friendly edges are a reliable constant. McD’s are a Postmodern, Post- Rockwell American icon, like it or not. If you want to know who really inhabits any small town, go look at the table in the back by the restrooms about 9 am any weekday morning. They are the “real deal” and almost without fail, they give real smiles.
These generic oases are a banal replacement for the “search for shrubbery.” In my pre seat belt back seat, shared with three sisters, it was a quick, pink-faced dash to the tree line. When one became too old for the pink potty between the open car doors, there was no other recourse. There was no talk of ticks and snakes, and we could all identify poison ivy at 10 paces. There was only blessed relief and guaranteed sniggering back at the car. I wonder if my interest in edges is an extension of my past forays into the “almost” wild?
It is warm and humid on this spring evening. A wave of thunderstorms are headed this way, but still a day away in car-time. Settled in to a comfortable car with snoozing dogs and spring colors, we move through the southern towns with appreciation for the soft green and buildings with well-worn edges.
Somewhere amidst the giant Live Oaks and the peanut stands we enjoyed a good conversation. The third party’s familiar voice emanated from the dashboard, the modern equivalent of coffee around a kitchen table. Talk of the past and talk of the future wafted through the car, out the windows and back in through the vents.
Past and future; they are the same, stories we tell about the edges,
before and beyond the only sure thing; the present.
It is all such a tricky business.
We know where we are headed, but where we are going is a mystery.