Peery Park

A walk up and down the bluffs above Soquel Creek this early afternoon, the west side of the creek going to the sea, and a return walk on the east. I would like to stick close to the creek today, and stay out of the heat. Beginning near Peery Park, a shady table and bench hidden away from all but walkers and bicyclists, and following the creek to its mouth in Capitola Village, has been my pleasure many times in all seasons. When I come, I try to take notice of what has changed along the route since I walked it last. At least a month has passed since my last round-trip. More deciduous trees have leafed out to provide a pleasant density of protection from the sun.

I’m much slower than I was a few years ago, and conscientious of my pace. Walkers of all ages and abilities go bouncing by me in their athletic tennis shoes. I never would have guessed that I might someday become a shuffler and a slow poke. My style of tennis shoes are a little clunky and heavy, certainly not designed for the sidewalk speeds I’m accustomed to seeing others attain. My ankles are weak from high school basketball injuries. My peripheral nerves are always under attack from bad signals that come out of my brain. I need the stability that my clod hoppers give me, as the grace of my smooth glide gradually slides away from me.

At the end of my walk to the ocean is the picturesque village, which spans several hundred yards along the sandy shore. Today I decide to not walk out on Capitola Wharf, but rather follow along the Esplanade, the beach-front street lined with restaurants and taverns. What a rowdy bunch inside these old eateries and drinkeries! I see some hanging out on the decks overlooking the lagoon of Soquel Creek. Maybe everybody indoors is watching a pro ball game, because there seems to be an intense excitement within.

The beach here is a sea of colored umbrellas today. It must be the first beach outing of the year for many, as so many people are becoming a pinkened white, amidst the smell of suntan oil. I have probably written on the subject several times. I continue to be amazed when I see this phenomenon of people flocking to the edge of the water as weather turns warm. Northern California could use a few more beach towns, enough so that everybody gets a parking spot and a stretch of sand on which to spread their towel.

I can’t sit too log in one place or I will become stiff and not want to get up and keep moving in the direction of my return loop toward home. Up the hillside behind the village I walk through a neighborhood where many of the gardening buffs are out today in shorts and straw hats, amending the soil, picking and pulling at the longer weeds now going to seed, carefully setting out new flowers along the sidewalks and in window-sill boxes.

A poster for a missing cat, Pearl, has been stapled to nearly every power pole on the street. Where or where did my little Pearl go? It appears that Pearl has tired of this busy beach life and has decided to move on toward a better place. It would have been thoughtful if she had left a departing note, but now, instead we almost keep an eye out for her. She’s a gray and white Siamese, in case anyone goes looking for her.

I return to the cool Peery Park after this hour or more of walking. Four teenage girls are crammed together on the single bench that overlooks Soquel Creek. They’re all smiling. At least one is talking on her cell phone. Probably making plans for a big summer event. There will be a lot of warm and fun days ahead in which to grow and smile, and share life’s joy with other young and excited friends.

These four remind me of the gang of friends from my teenage years. I can recall us also hanging out together in the cool shade on hot afternoons. Another year of school was out. We were so glad to be done with the tedium of books, lectures, tests, and teachers’ dirty looks. We would take turns guessing at what we might someday become. Some of the ideas would make us laugh. I envisioned myself living right about where I live today, and in my later years doing just about what I’m doing today. I would say that those youthful days with my friends, conjecturing about the goals in life, had more influence on me than I could possibly understand.

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