Signs and Symbols in the Suburbs


Cottonwood Park on the Frager Road in Kent.

I went for a walk on Saturday on Frager Road and saw a number of signs on symbols that I could only take as harbinger of the year to come. I saw a man under the Veteran’s Driver Overpass riding a BMX bike. He was a middle age man on a child’s bike. He asked me for the time. I didn’t want check my phone, but told him instead I didn’t know the time. I said that I my guess is that it was about 12:30. I figured I’d left the house around noon and I’d been walking for a number of minutes along the Green River. I didn’t want to show my phone. He was grizzled. I couldn’t fell if the bike was his or a bike he had picked up from someone’s back yard. He awkwardly perched on the bike and had to keep it in motion to keep from falling over. With each pedal he had to hunch down. He wore a green rain jacket, a baseball hat, and had a full sized hiking rucksack with a bedroll. After we had our exchange, I wanted to check my guess about the time but I didn’t want to reveal to him that I had lied to him about not being able to check the time, so I briskly walked ahead of him. After about five minutes I looked behind me and he was ambling behind me, walking alongside his bike. So I kept walking briskly and then looked behind me again and there he was still ambling along. He was a very rapid ambler. So I wasn’t able to check the time. There is a metal bridge that crossed the river at the Puget Power Trail. I had this sense then that I needed to cross the water to get past him. I thought maybe he wouldn’t cross the bridge ambling along with his bike, or maybe I had a sense that he couldn’t cross the water like some supernatural creature. When I got to the bridge, I turned to see if he was going to follow me over the bridge, but he’d disappeared somewhere in the cottonwood growing on the banks of an old mill pond. On the Frager Road I try not to walk at dusk. Most of the time I encounter people who are walking their dogs, riding their bicycles in some kind of competitive distance race, or jogging. I encounter people who are headed somewhere and have a purpose. With the salmon run in the fall, men wearing hoodies line the banks of the Green River with their rods propped in the muck and their hands in their pockets. They stare morosely at the turbid water patiently waiting for a salmon to swallow their hook. At dusk, however, I run into men carrying bedrolls who don’t really seem to have anywhere to go. They wander along the side of the river, or wander into the forest. He was gone. I checked my time and it was about 12:45, so I had been very correct.

On the way back to my car just past the Veteran’s Drive Overpass where forested hill become very steep as it climbs up to the Des Moines Kent Road, I saw someone in the distance waving their arms. The fir and maple trees obscured them. I stopped and could see a long haired person, a woman probably, in a grey sweat shirt waving her arms like she needed to be rescued. I kept walking, and then at the base of the hill where a muddy trail heads into the forest up toward her location, there was a bike trailer like yuppie couples use to lug along their babies when they are out for exercise on their bike. It had a bright red nylon awning and was stuffed with garbage bags. I kept walking before the woman or longhaired person came down from the forest to accost me. I wondered then if the man on the BMX had intended to meet this woman at a certain time under the Veteran’s Drive Overpass, and now I was being mistaken for her appointment, where before I’d been mistaken for his appointment?

I kept walking and encountered the third and final sign for 2015. I noticed a number of crows in a tree harassing what at first I took to be a giant old crow and then realized was a falcon. The falcon sat in a tree and a half-dozen crows jeered at it. When the falcon saw me walking under him, he jumped from the tree and sailed over the river. The crows took off in pursuit and dive bombed him, and he made a slow arc into the sky and then back into the forest. The crows scattered then shouting and yelling about the falcon.

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