Let’s go to the place where the sidewalk ends

The place where the sidewalk ends - www.alliepottswrites.com A story about a boy and a waterfall and the small differences we make which can add up to a big change.

LT sat on the tire swing in our backyard, alone. His brother had gone to play with a friend leaving LT to amuse himself while his father and I completed our chores. His legs were curled up as they wouldn’t touch the ground even if extended. As a result, the swing was nearly motionless except for a gentle sway with the breeze. I watched as his mouth move and wondered what the conversation he was having with himself might be about. He looked content, but it was a lonely image.

The last of my cleaning could wait. “Do you want to go to the park?” I called out, thinking there might be other kids he could play with. LT beamed, eagerly accepting my offer and soon we were walking down the street to our local playground. LT chattered about things like clouds, giants and other friendly monsters, smiling at everybody we passed along the way. Never once did I have to tell him to hurry up, or stay with me, or explain why he shouldn’t be carried. Who was this child?

a day at the park - www.alliepottswrites.At the park, the sun shone down with only a few clouds breaking up the brilliant expanse of the otherwise blue sky. I settled onto a bench inside the playground as LT climbed up on the play set designed for the bigger kids. “Look at me,” he shouted as he crawled through the plastic tunnel connecting a pair of slides.

I wondered why on earth we were the only ones at the park on such a lovely day. LT went down the larger of the slides. “It’s too hot mommy,” he advised as he reached the bottom. I realized the kid wasn’t exaggerating as I touched the plastic. The equipment might serve as a skillet if it was much hotter. I now understood why the playground was empty.

LT’s brother wouldn’t return for another hour or so. “How about we go on a waterfall hunt,” I suggested. The greenway was not too far away. We just had to go to the end of the sidewalk. LT beat me to the gate.

Raleigh greenway - www.alliepottswrites.comThe temperature dropped a good five to ten degrees (F) as we made our way down the gravel path connecting the trail with the outside world. As always, I felt as if we’d been teleported to some distant place as the canopy of trees stretched out above us. “This way,” LT requested, pointing in the direction of one of his favorite places along the path – a small bridge arching over an even smaller stream.

Leaving the trail, we descended down to the stream below. Large rocks enabled LT to step halfway across where he dipped his fingers into the water at the top of the small falls. “Can a waterfall move?” he asked.

“I suppose it can,” I answered, “but it takes some time to move on its own.”

We ventured further along the stream bed to where the bank was broken up by a myriad of smaller rocks and pebbles. LT reached down and grabbed a handful of dirt. Throwing it into the water, we watched as it dispersed into a ribbon-like cloud as the current took it downstream. LT grabbed a larger rock and this one too went into the water with a plunk, but unlike the dirt, the rock remained in place. You could almost see the gears turning in his head.

“Can you make a waterfall?” he asked.

Raleigh hidden gem - www.alliepottswrites.comOnce again I nodded and soon he was grabbing rocks, twigs, and bits of dirt. The water bulged where LT had added his obstacles, rising over the additional rocks as it rejoined the existing flow. It was hardly Niagara Falls, but it was enough of a difference in height for LT to declare success.

I knew by this time his brother was likely home and would be looking to share his own adventures with us. “Are you ready to go home and tell Daddy all about your waterfall?” I asked.

“But it’s not my waterfall, mommy,” he answered with a smile. “It’s ours.”

“All I did was stand here,” I countered as my heart did a little flip-flop as it tried not to melt.

“But you were here with me,” he replied.

It was a comment that probably kept him from getting grounded for life when he decided to lock himself in his room later that night in protest rather than get ready for bed. Ah, kids. And like that he was once again the child I recognized.

I’ve thought about the stream and our waterfall. He only moved a few rocks, true, but even so, the stream will never be exactly the same. The newly formed eddy, as small as it is, will cut into the stream bed creating new paths for the current to flow. These underwater paths, these series of small adjustments, might go for years unseen but will continue to trigger more changes. Another rock might shift. Another eddy form. Until one day, years from now, someone might dip his or her finger into the top of a waterfall where one did not previously exist – all thanks to LT and the difference he made at the place where the sidewalk ends.

Yes we’ll walk with a walk that is measured and slow, and we’ll go where the chalk-white arrows go, for the children, they mark, and the children, they know the place where the sidewalk ends.” – Shel Silverstein

And it will be our waterfall because you were here with me. We’re never as alone as it seems. I know we can move waterfalls. All it takes is to first be willing to make a small change.

An exercise on mindful thinking at the close of the year

An exercise on #mindfulness - www.alliepottswrites.comI decided to go for a jog one morning after feeling a guilty over recent excesses. The air was cool, but not chilly enough to need a jacket or put on gloves. My dog, Her Royal Highness, was happy enough to trot along beside me. The sky was a clear, albeit pale blue and the neighborhood quiet. In short, it was a perfect morning to be outdoors.

Raleigh is home to a greenway system that stretches from one end of the city to another and it is quite easy to forget that you are in the state’s capital when you enter one of the many wooded paths. But that morning, I had a specific destination in mind. If I could jog to a certain point on the trail without stopping, I would consider the run a success.

A slight tension on the leash informed me that Her Royal Highness wouldn’t mind picking up the pace. I ignored her request as I remained focused on my feet. She should understand. A trip or stumble due to a slippery patch of leaves or fallen branch would at a minimum ruin my stride, but could also prevent me from taking her out again for a long, long while. We rounded a corner, passing a walker and another dog on the trail. Her Royal Highness tugged, urging me to stop and say hello. Once again I refused her request.

I am not the fastest on the trail. Nor were there any fans cheering me on from the side of the path. But slow, but steady, I eventually made it to my goal one step at a time. Her Royal Highness wagged her tail and sniffed around as I took in the view.

My muscles in my legs stiffened in the seconds it took me to turn around. That’s when it hit me – the rather large error in my plan. The goal I’d set in mind was the furthest point in my run. I’d forgotten to consider the distance it would take to run back. Dang it.

Her Royal Highness sprung into action, but unfortunately, now that I’d stopped once, keeping up our steady pace was no longer as easy to do. I found myself walking more along the return, but by doing so, I was also able to look around.

The sky had taken on a deeper, richer shade of blue and the sunlight now filtered quite nicely through red and golden leaves. I stopped again at a bridge near the greenway’s exit, only this time instead of focusing on my stiffening muscles, the aching reminder of how far I’d come, or the distance I still had yet to go, I let myself appreciate just being in the place I found myself in now.

I removed my ear buds, and the music that had boomed and pulsed, keeping me inspired to run, was replaced by the sound of a creek flowing over rocks under the bridge. Leaves tumbled down as the trees swayed in the morning’s breeze. I turned and took the scene in more fully.

I might have lingered there longer, but the sound of footfalls on the path of an approaching walker broke the moment and soon we were once again on our way, taking the memory of the moment with us.

At the close of the year, I like to reflect on my accomplishments, and while they aren’t always easy to identify, I know there are always a few. At the same time, I like to plan for the year ahead and set my goals and challenges, just as I suspect many others do too. But moments like this are a good reminder to also be mindful of the present, for there is beauty to be seen in the now if you only take the time to stop and look around.

Autumn creek and #mindfulness - www.alliepottswrites.com

A Taste of Raleigh

“There is no sincerer love than the love of food” – George Bernard Shaw

“Why did you decide to stay in Raleigh?” It is a question my dad periodically asks, hoping that I might one day see the error of my ways and move closer to him. I like to counter, you can always move here. “I just don’t get what you see in it.” As a recently elected official in a town more than a hundred miles away, I understand his local pride is running particularly high at the moment, but when this conversation comes up, I always want to respond, I don’t get what you don’t.

Raleigh has grit (and not the dirty kind)

(Image: Joule Cafe‘s stone ground grits paired with a White Russian)

stone ground grits

Downtown Raleigh has experienced a recent boom in its downtown thanks in part to a number of determined individuals who decided to follow their dreams by launching restaurants or other businesses here.

One such is Ashley Christensen, a nationally recognized chef (and 2014 James Beard award-winning Best Chef: Southeast) who purchased a one time Piggly Wiggly and repurposed into not one but three outstanding restaurants.

It knows how to innovate and making best use of local resources

(Image: Joule Cafe‘s apple-filled, griddle-less hot cakes – proving even pancakes can be made better with a little imagination)

griddle-less apple filled hot cakes

Raleigh is home to more than ten colleges and universities without including the various institutes of higher learning less than twenty-five miles away in Durham or Chapel Hill and many are known as much for their academic programs as their national championships.

Additionally, Raleigh has been recognized by the President as an innovation hub and a key to driving the rest of the state’s Economic future.

It is a city constantly on the move

(Image: Calavera’s beef empanada with strawberry margarita)

empanada with strawberry margarita

One of my favorite things about Raleigh (though the food is a close second) is the series of trails that make up the area’s greenway system.

You can spend hours either on foot or by bike surrounded by nature and protected from the summer sun under a canopy of trees. Raleigh is nicknamed the City of Oaks for a reason. There are also gardens, public parks, and a network of creeks that constantly inspire exploration.

But at the same time values its history

(Image: Green Light Bar cocktail)

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If nature isn’t your thing, there are plenty of other interesting places to visit around town including museums, civic landmarks, exhibitions as well as sporting events and performances. There are also dozens of tours (such as the food tour I where I took these photos), free concerts, and festivals.

Fun Fact: One of the earliest laws on North Carolina’s books was that the capital building must be placed within ten miles of the lawmaker’s favorite tavern. Because, Priorities.

It is a melting pot of culture as well as technology

(Image: Garland‘s Asian-inspired chicken in a turmeric-yogurt sauce with chili cucumber salad and beer from one of the 10+ local breweries)

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Today Raleigh has a population just under a half million people. If you include the sprawling areas that make up Raleigh’s suburbs that number is closer to one million.

However if you ask people where they are from, it is uncommon to meet someone who was born here. Instead, a large portion of the population is like me. People who came to the area and simply fell in love with it for any number of reasons.

Where celebration comes easy

(Image: Bittersweet’s chocolate mousse and rosette)

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At the end of my food tour, our group was fortunate enough to meet the owner, Kim Hammer, of Bittersweet, a dessert and drink bar. As she told us about her store, its regular clients, and the services she offers, it was obvious that the restaurant was more than a job. It was her passion.

In addition to providing sweets, she also regularly offers champagne classes encouraging everyone not to horde the bottle, waiting for an event to celebrate which may never come, but to instead occasionally drink a glass just because it is Thursday.

It is people like this who make Raleigh, my kind of town. I hope that if your travels ever take you this way, you stop by and sample it yourself.