For some reason, today felt like the last day of summer. It was one of those glorious days in Cleveland: sunny, 74 degrees, a blue horizon with fat fluffy clouds and a generous breeze. I went downtown to walk the viaduct under the Detroit-Superior Bridge. It’s open only a few times a year, this time for a festival celebrating the fusion of art and technology.
Entering the cavernous subway entrance, I was soon walking the viaduct, the cars whizzing over my head on the bridge above, and below the barges on the Cuyahoga river blasting their horns for other bridges to lift, turn, or draw up for them to pass through on the way to the mills. It’s a peculiar view of my city; walking high above it, looking down upon it through the joists in the concrete, catching glimpses of lake and sky and river and bridge and buildings.
I took the top down on my car and drove through the city, watching the joggers and dog walkers, the hipsters, and the homeless men lounging in the shade of an urban triangular park. I saw people leaning on bus stops, people in wheelchairs, people walking in resentful isolation; people holding hands. As in any rustbelt city, there were empty storefronts and factories, small pockets of gentrification, and large stretches of open land where warehouses used to stand. There were snippets of music from other cars, laughter, and an impossibly small dog, tongue lolling, lunging out the window of an unbelievably large car.
I stopped by my community garden and harvested a little mint, a couple of tomatoes, and the juicy delight of autumn raspberries. The garden was strangely quiet—the chattering goldfinches have moved south now that the sunflowers and thistles are bloomed out, the migrating Monarchs were nowhere to be seen, and the air was too hot for crickets to pick up their orchestra. The bumblebees were lying in their beds of zinnias, too cold and tired to gather pollen.
There was a feeling of finality to the day, as though a swift cold wind will ride into town tomorrow, bringing with it the scent of snow. Winter in Cleveland is a time of enduring. Enduring cold, ice, and snow for what seems like far more than the four months it usually lasts. Enduring hats and boots and overcoats and scraping ice off the windshield several times a day. Enduring low grey daylight only nine hours a day for weeks on end.
How does one celebrate the last day of summer? A walk to see my city through new eyes, a drive in the sunshine watching fellow travelers, a visit to the garden to savor the last fruits of the season and listen to the quiet. A quiet that will only intensify and blanket my town as the winter descends.
text and photos copyright voicegal, 2011