A Midsummer Night's Scheme

Magic, Mischief, and Community in the Neighborhood

On summer evenings, just as that friendly mountain shadow creeps across downtown Glenwood and brings its merciful shady coolness to all in its wake, I like to go for neighborhood walks. Sometimes I hoof it up the Doc Holliday trail or stroll along Grand Avenue and peek inside the shop windows, but mostly I just meander through the residential streets around my house in the historic district. If it’s true that simple pleasures bring our finest riches, these twilight walks make for a pretty wonderful asset.

I left around dusk on one such excursion earlier this summer, hoping to loop around a few blocks and make it home before the stars came out. I love to admire the homes and gardens in my neighborhood, so I chose a quick route that would lead me past a few of my favorites: the green two-story with the lovely roses, the beige cottage with the hollyhocks, the great gray Victorian with the downy tufts of snow-on-the-mountain planted all around. The houses looked so charming in the waning light, so perfectly Glenwood, all illuminated from within by the lamplight of after-dinner relaxation and togetherness. Feeling satisfied, I turned for home.

Then the sprinklers at the gray Victorian turned on. I hopped to dodge them, catching a little cold mist on my ankles, and glanced down to watch where my feet landed on the sidewalk. It was then that something peculiar caught my eye.

Before me was a series of chalky hopscotch squares, colorful arrows, circles, symbols, and words, all scribbled in the hand of a young human and spanning at least the length of the block. What was this, a trick? Some scheme to entice me to an unknown location? This was no ordinary chalk drawing. What did it all mean? At first, it was difficult to decipher: some of the symbols had been washed away by the sprinklers, and the rest was obscured by the dim light of impending nighttime. I squinted; looking closer, I determined that the words instructed me to follow along and keep going.

Hm. A clever game, I thought. Very clever.

I obliged them and followed to the corner. The sidewalk, it seemed, had been transformed into a kind of interactive treasure map, or an activity path for lucky passersby such as myself to enjoy. Symbols darted here and there, hand-drawn stepping stones kept me going in the right direction, and best of all were the thoughtful notes of caution surrounding each dip and crack in the concrete: “Watch out for this one!” they implored.

I stopped at the point where my own steps needed to circle back home. The sidewalk game instructed me to turn in the opposite direction, but I went rogue. I glanced up to the next block and the next, where it appeared that the fun continued much deeper into the neighborhood. There I half expected to see a chest of gold coins placed somewhere along the way, or at least a couple kids waiting for me in the bushes with a bucket of water balloons. But, the newly fallen night seemed quiet and unadorned with the sparkle of treasure, so I decided to leave the remainder of the quest for some other charmed wanderer to undertake. Perhaps they could venture bravely on and discover whether the grand finish did indeed harbor some magic (or mischief).

Thinking back on that evening, I feel so happy to live in a place where such neighborhood delights exist. A creative young person had a terrific idea, and their parents let them go out and execute it, and their neighbors didn’t mind when the sidewalk in front of their homes was scribbled with childhood fancy and freedom. Some might say that community, real community, is disappearing from the American townscape—but I beg to differ. It’s here in Glenwood, and it’s alive and well in neighborhoods across the Roaring Fork Valley; it’s just sometimes most apparent in the fine print, that good-natured chalky stuff obscured between daylight and nightfall.

Keep drawing your sidewalk treasure maps, kiddos, and I’ll keep following them. Maybe I’ll begin my walks a bit earlier, too, to give myself time to cross their finish lines. And if you happen to chuck a water balloon in my general direction as I pass, I might not even mind.