On foot in Raleigh
This morning I went walking from my house in downtown Raleigh, out to the farmer’s market, around to NC State’s centennial and main campuses, and then back home. As I started out, I crossed Old Capital Square, where a muscular-looking red tailed hawk was hunting squirrels. It flew over my head in a blur of white to perch on an upper branch of one of the big oaks, perfectly still, watching for brunch to arrive below. The parks in downtown Raleigh have a healthy population of hawks; we often see a pair harrying squirrels and pigeons in Morgan Square.
What a contrast later in my walk, when I reached Centennial Drive! My map is few years old, and did not show the relatively new road. I walked on the bike path from Parrot Drive to Main Campus Dr., feeling dwarfed by high voltage powerlines, and giant stormwater swales that pin the land’s natural curves in place with concrete abutments. The breadth and sweep of the road drew passing cars into irresistible acceleration. On the margins of the roads and parking lots, a sea of mowed grass was archipelagoed with awkward, stunted plantings of maple, Bradford pear, and white pine that were antiseptically free from undergrowth and cast no visible shade. Perhaps this landscape would have felt more habitable if I were 20 feet tall. As it was, the only feature my size was a sign informing me that this ‘natural area’ was opened by the grace of NC State University. During the 20 minutes it took to cross the desolation, I saw (apart from some people whipping by in their cars) two living creatures, both crows. Whoever designed and built this strange road seems to have largely neglected the human dimension of landscape.