Quiet Desperation

So close, yet so far away from it all


"Martha, this writer, all he does is complain, complain."

Not today, Martha. We just went for a walk, and it's impossible to complain after a walk on the greenbelt with a dachshund.

Our greenbelt isn't exactly "Wind in the Willows," but it's close. I have seen coyotes and foxes and their menu (rabbits), snakes, and once, a divine miracle: three deer. I can't figure out how they got here. I think they took a cab.

Smitty is short, so we go for short walks — two, three, or four a day, if he approves of the weather. Smitty's weather window is very small. No snow, no rain, and it can't be very cold or very hot. But it can be at 2 or 3 a.m., when I like to get up and start writing or painting, especially in the summer when it is too hot to do anything at 2 or 3 p.m.

The greenbelt sidewalk is east-west, so we can walk into the sunrise, and sometimes it is coral and spectacular.

We try to go for a walk before I read the morning paper. The daily news changes everything. Usually whatever serenity I gained over night goes away until it's bedtime again.

I don't go fishing, but I have a theory that walking a dog is a lot like fishing. It's not a high-minded purpose, but there are objectives. Fishermen have told me that they don't have to catch anything to enjoy the experience. Walking a dog is just like that. About all Smitty does is smell things, and relieve himself.

That may not sound like much, but it accomplishes two things: It makes him happy and it makes me happy. If the weather isn't acceptable, Smitty does his toiletries, as it were, indoors, and generally in my studio.

When I bought the house, the greenbelt wasn't on my mind. It's no more than a sidewalk that connects one street with another, but it's quite long and it rolls. There is a handsome clump of shrubs, bushes, and stumpy trees that change colors year-round.

The greenbelt from street to street is wide and almost — almost — gives the illusion that you are living a long way from a metropolis. I am sure the home owners had to pay more for their houses than I did for mine. My house just looks out over Carl and Edna.

I can watch dream house television programs now, and no longer be envious. I used to subscribe to "Architectural Digest" and sit there and weep. Who needs that? I came to the conclusion that I am lucky to have my gray suburban tract house.

I think we all reach a point of acceptance. I certainly didn't understand that when I was in my 20s, 30s, and 40s. More, better, bigger, newer. But that is all gone now. Now it's mostly maintenance, repair and replace.

My house is 21 years old. The builders didn't do us any favors. Just about all of the viscera has been replaced. Some of it, like the sump pump, wasn't taken care of before it went berserk. While I was in New York. I came home and found a pond in the basement.

When I bought the house I bought the floor plan and the bottom line. I looked at the layout, liked it, and looked at the total cost, and liked that. Everything was new, so I was blind to things like the quality of the fixtures and the flooring, the cabinets, the water heater, the furnace.

But they did keep just enough of Mother Nature to enable Smitty and me to start the day — and end it — with a few fine moments of serenity.

Craig Marshall Smith is an artist, educator and Highlands Ranch resident. He can be reached at craigmarshallsmith@comcast.net.


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