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WRITE TEAM: A winter walk

It’s the first full days of winter. Reba and I are enjoying the preview of what spring will bring many months away. Several times each winter we receive such a reprieve. The challenge is to understand it is a tease, a short-lived trick winter likes to play.

We are walking to Allen Park today.

The wind is minimal. The temperature is pleasant. The sun is shining and keeping me warm. 

Reba is quite happy with the cool air. She is happy being out and smelling all the odors to which our short walk will expose her.

Heading south over the bridge in Ottawa, the yellow art installation of the lady reclines against the hill with the last vestiges of snow clinging to the slope in the park. Trails are still visible in the snow at the feet of the woman from sleds having made their way down.

We walk through the park and over to the higher sledding hill east of the bridge. 

There are fishermen in a boat just upriver drifting slowly, lines in the water. They, like us, have seen the opportunity to enjoy today.

Upward we go. I walk, huffing and puffing my way to the top.

Reba is too busy sniffing the wall that separates the steps from the grass where we climb to be concerned with the up.

(It is reassuring not to see rebar protruding through the steps. I have images of pain and hurt. Shivers run through my body.)

We reach the top. (Whew! I’m old and fat and out of shape.)

Heading north towards downtown the courthouse stands proudly in view. It is a lovely town, picturesque with the old buildings, the river and parks.

The fishermen have drifted under the bridge. The water is calm on the Illinois River. The Fox River is showing only small ripples as the wind gently increases.

Of all places to experience stillness, the bridge across the river seems unlikely. Winter usually provides chilling challenges for those crossing the distance. 

Today could easily be spring or early fall except the trees have shed their foliage. One of the pleasantries of walking in winter is being granted a view of more than just rustling greenery.

Looking north and northwest, the church steeples stand pointedly above their surroundings, most topped with crosses proclaiming the reason for the coming holiday.

The cross atop the steeple where I attend church is visible though not nearly as tall, nor as shiny, as the Roman Catholic Church to the west.

We have made our way to Washington Square park.

Reddick Mansion is still draped in scaffolding for the much needed facelift she is undergoing. The eves already display the work that has been completed. Fresh paint and good craftsmanship are working their magic on the historic building.

Around the park and back south we walk. The addition of Christmas lights makes the trees look much more festive.

Today there are no squirrels to grab Reba’s attention so she walks and sniffs without interruption.

South we go, one foot in front of the other heading home, through a town still showing the contradictions of a main street not quite secured in its fate.

New restaurants smell inviting.

Vacant stores compete against the occupied.

Hope runs through my thoughts at the potential.

RICHARD PUGH, of Ottawa, is enjoying living in the Illinois River Valley. He can be reached by emailing

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