My wife and I were eager to spend the afternoon alone together as we ambled through the Leif Erickson Rose Garden. Four pre-teen girls stood across the way giggling together as we concentrated on the bushes and trees aflush with blooms in the mid-July sunshine. The scent of flowers was already adrift as we approached one tree, and we drew closer. We love the smell of flowers. Often, we pick up a bouquet at the grocers on the way to the milk, bread, and eggs. On this day, we inhaled the soft scents before they were cut.
Back on the sidewalk, we turned toward the Lake and, from this higher vantage point, we saw the Aerial Life Bridge in the distance. The Lake is calm, for the most part — there are no white caps to indicate a brewing storm. An easy breeze cools our skin and clothing, even from an eighth of a mile away. A footbridge crosses well above the interstate highway. For about 45 seconds as we walk across, we hear the thrum of rubber tires against the tarmac below. Three-fourths the way across, we hear a group of teens with their two chaperones palavering behind us. Excited about an adventure on the Lakewalk, they quickly approached from behind us to the ramp in front of us that slanted from the footbridge to the lakefront. We hastened to move to one side of the bridge so the teens could run at their pace, and we could stroll at ours.
On the lakefront and hand in hand, we wandered slowly along the walkway with our hearts full of hope, happiness, and love. The cool breeze was a dim disparity to the sunshine that pushed the local temperature to higher than average for this time of year. In the distance, we heard the faint clicks and clacks of heavy equipment moving enormous rocks to reinforce a shoreline severely damaged by storms during the past 18 months.
Memorials are dotted across the Lakewalk. A children’s memorial called Angel of Hope is tucked between a few trees. My wife had been here before, so she knew what to look for. If I had been here by myself, I would have missed it. Citizens can purchase a memorial brick for a child who was taken from life too soon. We chatted for a minute or two about our little great niece who was taken at the tender age of 18 months. Without making comment, I thought about my younger brother, and I wondered if my mom would have wanted to purchase a brick in honor of him. This is not a memorial of sadness, but a memorial of hope. Future generations learn about hope through the stories at this memorial. We talked for a few minutes about our son, his wife, and their little boy.
We continued along the Lakewalk. There was a stark contrast between the sections of completed restoration and the few spots still in disrepair — nothing drastic, just a notice as we walked. We saw a family digging for agates and other treasures along the gentle surf. A little farther, we saw a stack of round rocks that previous visitors had delicately balanced on top of each other.
Finally, we arrived at the worksite. Chain-link fence prohibited entry into the work zone, but the rocks they were working with were taller than I am. Trucks moved in and out of the area constantly, so we drifted away to the upper Lakewalk to take a short respite in the Pickwick building along Superior Street. As we entered the building, we saw a couple of friends. We walked and talked with them, and we were refreshed to reconnect with them for a minute or two. Eventually, they moved one direction, and we moved another to continue our lovers’ stroll.
Portland Malt Shop is a lone building that stands along that same street. It is local ice cream with local owners, and local employees. We splurge today for a nice treat. As we shared our sweet little indulgence, we remember how both of our moms loved ice cream. Eventually, we made it back to the Rose Garden and back to our car along London Avenue.
As I began to look through the lens of hindsight at this journey, I began to see the Walk of Life. At the beginning, we walk through the garden of youth. We detect the sweet smell of our future during our early 20s. We looked forward to the end of college, working a career, and settling in with a family. The journey continued to build hope and excitement as we saw our children move through infancy, childhood, adolescence, and then eventually, building their own families. Sometimes along the way, the storms of life disrupted our pathway and we needed to restore a few areas. We memorialized some friends, found a delicate balance between work and home, and dug for the treasure of time spent together.
As I move into the autumnal season of my life, I keep a close watch on my friends and family. Any few minutes with them is time well spent even though I am going one direction and they are going another. From time to time, I splurge and drive a great distance from home to spend time with my son and his family. One day, I will walk back toward home and see all those people I memorialized along the way.
The two-hour walk with my wife was fun. We love each other, we see hope in each other, and we make each other a better person as we walk through life together. I am certain that someday we will cross that Final Footpath and be together forever.
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