Arranging the Pieces… The magic in the red lights

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By Tabitha Bozeman

The other day, all the stars magically aligned. It was one of those things that you suddenly realize is happening in the middle of it actually happening.

I usually hit at least a couple of the numerous lights on my way across town, so after three or four green lights, I was watching to see how many I’d make. Out of the 10 or so lights on the drive, I made nine green lights. The first red light I stopped at was also the last light before I pulled into work. I was disappointed that I did not make all 10 green lights.

I slowed for that yellow light, though, looking around and amused by my good luck, but I was bemused at the timing that had messed up my streak. I’d kept a steady speed and still caught this last light. Then, right as I came to a stop and the light turned from yellow to red, a deer bolted out from the opposite side of the road, ran in front of me and disappeared into the trees and backwater.

If I’d tried to make that last light, I’d have hit that deer.

That was a sobering thought, because it could have gone either way. I had time to make the yellow light but it would have been close. Since I was not in a hurry and pleasantly surprised by all the other green lights, I stopped.

For the rest of this past week, I’ve noticed things I usually do not see even though they are right in front of me, such as spaces where the city has been working.

I see all the work our city crews are doing around town and have heard and read a lot of mixed reviews . Change is disconcerting, and sometimes our human knee-jerk response is to complain about change. I’ve heard quite a bit of that, and I won’t lie, as I’ve done my fair share of griping over lane closures and roadside work.

I’ve also noticed the ways these improvements made a difference to my experience as I move around town. When I drove down South 11th Street, I thought about living on that street as a kid, and how nice the new sidewalks are now. I’d have loved to skate and bike on those sidewalks when I was little. They have really upped the curb appeal when I drive through that area.

Another area I’d become blind to are the spaces around the Meighan Boulevard and U.S. Highway 411 ramps. When I was little, Gregerson’s was our grocery story, and we used to feed the ducks at the little gazebo by the water. After Gregerson’s closed, that little area became really grown over. As much as I love mimosa trees, I’d forgotten how nice it was to see the geese and ducks enjoying the water. Maybe I’ll take my girls by there one day.

Last weekend, a friend and I took our kids out for a hike up on the mountain. After the hike, we weren’t quite ready to go home yet so we decided to explore another area the city has cleared out across from the falls and Mitchell Elementary. The kids had more fun over there with nothing but sticks, pebbles, pinecones and imagination than anything else we did that day, and we all enjoyed the gorgeous weather and sunlight dancing on the water. It has been years since I paid any attention to that space because it was covered by brush.

I experienced one of the best surprises on my way home the other day, and it was something I heard rather than saw.

I’d just come over the Meighan Boulevard bridge, on which the freshly-painted and reflector-bedecked new lanes have drastically reduced the stress of that intersection. I was stopped by a red light in front of the Shell station on 3rd Street. I think I caught every single red light that afternoon. I sighed and rolled my windows down to enjoy the fresh air. Suddenly, over the voices on my radio and the traffic around me, I heard jazz music. When I looked around, I saw a musician on the corner playing his saxophone.

The stars may not have aligned that afternoon, but I enjoyed that impromptu concert while I waited for the light to change. For that moment the magic was in the red light, not the green.

Tabitha Bozeman teaches English at Gadsden State Community College, where she is the editor-in-chief of the Cardinal Arts Journal. The opinions expressed are her own. She may be reached at tabithabozeman@gmail.com.

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