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.

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.

Touches of individuality distinguish the look-alike cemestos, erected hurriedly during the war years to house the makers of the atom bomb. In addition to a variety of siding, shutters, and extensions that make each house distinctly itself, you can see an avocado plant on a porch; two window boxes with bright red geraniums; four bird feeders in a dogwood tree that appear each fall and disappear each summer; a row of hard-to-grow rhododendron bushes; two rural mailboxes, end to end, with the top off one, which is planted with bright orange and yellow flowers; morning glories climbing up a fence.

More permanent touches include the small black metal eagles at regular intervals along the eaves of one house and a large mother eagle on the front. For months I thought they were purely decorative until an article in the Oak Ridger, one of its delightful human interest stories, informed me that they were functional as well, designed to hold back the snow and keep it from falling -- at least, this was their purpose in New England, where enough snow falls to catch. The article went on to say that the owners of the house had collected the eagles from antique stores over a series of visits to New England.

Sometimes there is an unexpected happening, a surprise. One morning there appeared in front of a house with a rusty porch railing and ordinarily uncared-for grass, a four-tiered, terraced garden, with different flowers on each tier and a jaunty ceramic frog looking down from the top tier.

Sometimes something that is probably not new catches my attention as did the fountain with a black cherub pouring a pitcher of water into a basin in the garden of the locksmith and his wife. Camouflaged by foliage, the fountain went unnoticed until one quiet morning I could hear water falling. In summer this garden is a profusion of blossoms, flowers on nearly every inch of ground. This is one of the few houses whose residents I know by name, in this case because the car outside the house has a sign on it with the man's name followed by ``Lock-smith.'' Like the other denizens of Georgia Avenue whom I see most often, the locksmith is probably retired, although perhaps he still turns out a key now and again.

There are some animals I know, as well as people, along Georgia Avenue. Near the foot of this hilly street lives a large, young, black dog with a red collar. A relatively recent resident -- tethered to an oak tree and barking vigorously when I first saw him -- he now has a fenced-in area back from the street. Then there's the locksmith's wife's white poodle, which follows her around in the garden, and near the top of the hill is another small white poodle. Extremely friendly, he runs up to me if he is outdoors, where he is more likely to be during the cooler seasons when I take my walk at noon. He is always attended, usually by the aunt of the child to whom he belongs. He is the replacement of an ancient black dog I had passed for several years.

There is an occasional cat and less often, but at least a dozen times a year, a wild white-tailed rabbit, doubtless not the same one. There is a large lot with a small creek and a dense stand of kudzu-covered bushes near the foot of Georgia Avenue with enough cover for some wildlife, and once -- only once -- I saw a groundhog disappearing into the copse. Birds are present all the time.

There must be Georgia Avenues in small towns all over. 30--{et

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