I've grown accustomed to Georgia Ave.
WHEN Henry David Thoreau wrote, ``I have travelled much in Concord,'' I doubt his tongue was in his cheek. I believe he meant exactly what he said. I, too, have ``travelled much'' in a small area, one even smaller than Concord. It is Georgia Avenue, a street about one-and-a-half miles long in Oak Ridge, Tenn. -- one of the original streets, which extends north-south from the Oak Ridge Turnpike to Outer Drive. For six or seven years now I have taken almost daily walks on Georgia Avenue: in summer between 7:30 and 8 before I go to work; the rest of the year, during my lunch hour. I chose it for three reasons: It was close to my office; the uphill part of the walk came first, making the last half easier; and it was a shady street with many trees. Little did I know how attached I would become to Georgia Avenue -- its trees, its seasonal treats, its dogs, and its people; in short, its atmosphere, its ambiance.Skip to next paragraph
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A beautiful documentary about the former Secretary-General of the United Nations, ``I remember Dag Hammarskjold,'' conveyed a sense of the man not only through the reminiscences of friends and colleagues, but as much, perhaps, through the streets and country lanes he walked on every day, the scenes that helped to shape his character. Later when I read John Buchan's ``Pilgrim's Way,'' I could see how the Scottish borderlands shaped his. In much the same way Georgia Avenue has become a part of me -- not the only place to become a part of me, to be sure, but a valid part nonetheless.
As much as anything else, it is the trees along Georgia Avenue that influence its character. I once read that there are more varieties of trees in east Tennessee than any other place in the world, and Georgia Avenue has its share of them: bushy spruces, tall pines, delicate hemlocks; oaks of several varieties -- fast-growing pin oaks with pointed leaves, slower-growing red oaks, and white oaks with spatulate, blunted fingers; maples that turn scarlet in fall; tulip poplars, sweet gums, weeping willows; and dogwoods, lovely to look at every season, with white blossoms in spring, red berries in fall, and stark branches in winter, their tight bloom-buds pointed skyward for awakening in spring.
I often give thanks in my thoughts to the planners of Oak Ridge, who unlike many developers today, insisted more than 40 years ago that as many trees as possible be left standing. A cemesto house wedged catty-cornered between two massive oaks, with no more than three feet to spare on either side, is not uncommon. Above all, it is the preservation of the oaks and maples that gives the sidewalks their sun-dappled quality, which brings to mind Gerard Manley Hopkins's ``Glory be to God for dappled things.''
Georgia Avenue is an unpretentious street -- not one of fine, large houses or other signs of material wealth or conspicuous consumption. Nor do the people who dwell in these houses in any way resemble those in New Yorker ads. They are more like the people celebrated by Thornton Wilder in ``Our Town,'' or E. E. Cummings's ``pretty how town (with up so floating many bells down)'' where ``anyone lived.'' The quality, the mystique, of Georgia Avenue is a comfortable dailiness -- people bringing in groceries, watering lawns, raking leaves, chatting across a fence, hanging clothes on the line, or walking their dogs.