Imaginary Swamp Tryst

Today’s post comes from Clyde in Mankato

It’s a new-fangled sort of park which sits upon an ancient piece of ground. North Creek Park in Bothel Washington has a boardwalk raised over the swamp. You are there to see a biome closer, perhaps, to The Creation—however you envision that Creation—than the higher ground around the swamp, land which is now the field for suburban one-upsmanship of house, job, child, and toy.

The swamp too is also a competitive field, such as among the ducks into whose spring boudoirs you almost step. Their one-upsmanship is for territory, nesting material, food, and social superiority.

Pix 1

If you are alone when you meet someone who is also alone on the narrow plastic wood pathway, you must make a decision. You can keep silence by pretending to be rapt in the reeds around you and the murky water seeping slowly north under your feet. Or you can talk to the person who passes you by. This stranger and you will intrude in each other’s space for several more seconds than when two strangers pass on the street. Here you walk slowly. You do not come here to be in a hurry. Those in a hurry have other places they must be, which is not to say that those who frequent the swamp are not driven here by a need as well.

Pix 2

I can imagine two people who have met in this way several times until they now expect the other to be on the walkway. Perhaps he is old, wearing bib overalls and heavy shoes, pushing his walker, stopping frequently to sit on the seat of his walker, either from weariness or for new appreciation of a swamp, swamps having been classified for most of his life as wasted ground to be converted to solid land, to serve as yet another field of human one-upsmanship.

Perhaps she is young, stopping often to rid herself of the burdensome effects of her early morning shift at a lunch counter, where she wheedles small tips from people tired from a night shift or still not awake in preparation for a stint of money-earning. After her walk through the swamp she will head to UW-Bothel, where the one-upsmanship of the classroom will prepare her for an adult life of one-upsmanship.

The first time they pass, they ignore each other, or rather she ignores him. The second time she nods at him sitting on his walker. The third time he reads her waitress name tag aloud. “Tish,” he says, “sounds like air coming from an inner tube.” The fourth time he greets her with the sound of air escaping between his tongue and upper teeth. When he does it the fifth time, she realizes it is a tease. Wondering where he gets overalls that round in the middle and short in th legs, she decides to call him Bibs, which tickles his fancy, as does spending even a few seconds with an attractive young woman sixty years his junior.

At the sixth meeting he is sitting on his walker by the one bench along the walkway. She takes the hint for a minute or two. They discuss the nature around them. At the seventh meeting she brings a thermos of coffee for them to share. They discuss where his life has been and where hers is going.

By the twentieth meeting they have explained to each other why they meet, their need for human contact unmotivated by any purpose other than what neither would call love, but which is love indeed.

Sometimes they hold hands lightly, unself-consciously while they talk. Sometimes they say few words. Sometimes one or the other does not appear for their tryst. Neither would ask why. They would now have trust. Their favorite topic would be the nature which has drawn them, not the life that has driven them here. Neither would acknowledge passersby, such as the gimpy old white-bearded man taking pictures which he would perhaps use to paint pastels.

Pix 3

One day it would end. She would graduate and move for a job or for a young man whom she also loves. He might one day not appear; she would not know he had died. Since she knows him only as Bibs, she would not recognize his obituary.

But the swamp would not noticed their comings and goings. The swamp would endure—if human one-upsmanship over Creation can resist the urge to fill it in.

Do you talk to strangers?

40 thoughts on “Imaginary Swamp Tryst”

  1. Good morning. Some times I speak to strangers and some times I don’t. There are a lot factors that enter into deciding to speak to a stranger such as my mood, the appearance of the stranger, and the setting. I have been told that I don’t always use good judgement in what I say to strangers and I think this might be true on some occasions. Therefore, I tend to limit the number times I talk to stranger to avoid making the error of saying something that is awkward or inappropriate.

    Clyde, I like the raised walk ways through swamps such as the one you described. It s unfortunate that some people think of swamps as waste areas. Swamps were one of my favorite places to explore when I was a boy and they still are one of my favorite places.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. What a lovely story, Clyde!
    I love the concept of talking to strangers but as an introvert who has to examine every possible comment for appropriateness before opening my mouth, it doesn’t happen too often.
    I’m better at small bantering with sales clerks, etc.

    I recently returned from taking care of my sister after her hip replacement. When I picked her up at the hospital I observed how she interacted in a lively way with each of the nurses and staff. It reminded me of how I THINK of myself as doing that.
    I definitely eschew the flat affect and almost rudeness that some people display.


  3. People out here talk to eachother quite a bit. There are not to many of us, even with the influx of oil folks, and the lines in the stores get to be pretty long, and strangers strike up conversations pretty readily. Sometimes it is easier for me to talk to people I don’t know than people I know. Lovely story, Clyde.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. My mother influenced me in many ways, not all of them positive, but I’m proud to have inherited her spontaneous, friendly way of dealing with strangers. She had a gift for saying things to strangers that instantly formed a funny, human relationship.

    It is a dangerous habit. Some folks value their privacy. They are offended if a stranger pipes up and violates their isolation. I always make a calculation before speaking to strangers, and I couldn’t tell you what clues I use to make the decision to be overtly friendly.

    This is one of the reasons I loved walking with Katie, my second English setter, in the off-leash dog park. In the culture of that park it was always acceptable to speak to strangers if your first comment was about their dog. “What a cool dog! I’d guess there is springer spaniel in her, and maybe some kind of retriever?” That was always allowed. And then the other person could answer in ways that did or did not invite further conversation.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I often talk with neighbors who are walking their dogs. You don’t have to be at a dog park – people usually like talking about their pets, wherever they are. I often know the names of the neighborhood dogs, even if I don’t know the names of the owners.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. There is a woman who lives a few blocks away who I only know as “the human of the Other Barney.” Other Barney was a beagle – and our Barneys would meet from time to time on walks. Both were/are rescues. her Barney was older. Saw her out a few weeks ago with her Barney who could then not go more than a block before needing to be picked up to go home. When I saw her a few days later she explained that her Barney had been put down. I gave her a hug and she gave my Barney some extra pats on the head and belly.

          Liked by 2 people

  5. yes I do
    nice vignette Clyde
    I sure enjoy the voice you write with.
    I tend to be the talky one. my kids don’t get it but they do… they see how enjoyable it is to interact. especially if it’s just for today. those relationship based conversations can be more than you bargained for.
    Yellowstone put in those wooden walkways where people are not allowed to get off. it’s a good way of saving the surrounding areas. I used to think it was not a good idea. today I get it. people are so incredible abut what they seem to think is ok in nature
    I like the foundation for the new storytelling model Clyde
    looking forward to it

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Found wifi.
    I struggled with title as I always do. Then as soon as Dale told me it was set for today, the right title hit me. “Two Ships Passing in the Swamp.”

    Liked by 3 people

  7. I frequently do, especially in the grocery store. I did make it a habit to greet anyone I pass in the street or especially the stairwell going to work with a “good morning” or “good afternoon.”
    I picked up a couple with backpacks hitchhiking outside of Leadville last month. I don’t usually do that, but was happy I did because they were a couple of teachers from Great Britain and great conversationists. And the guy helped me figure out how to open the trunk of my rental car.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. I’ve noticed that walking down a public hallway, I’ve noticed that both he/she and I openly avoid eye contact. This bothers me and is consternating. Same on elevators. Whenever I’m in a line to checkout, I ofter strike up a colorful, however brief, human interaction.

    Today while standing in line, I asked a woman in front of me if she had grandchildren. She did, so I told her about something I’d recently seen online that was fascinating to me. If you pour some milk in a bowl, then drop a few coloring drops, then add dish soap drops, it turns into an amazing, swirling event. Adding even more soap, the colors once again act like a kaleidoscope of swirling colors constantly changing. She thanked me. I then bought a few color drips and plan to try this myself.

    She thanked me. You might want to try it youself.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. It’s not in my nature to start up conversations, but as time goes on I make more of an effort to go against the grain. You are supposed to go outside your comfort zone, at least now and then. A friend of mine often notices people taking pictures of friends with their cell phones, and she’ll offer to take a picture for them so they can all be in the picture. I’ve tried in recent years to follow her example. It requires me to be more observant, less absorbed in my own little world.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I have been known to play the game my grandfather used to play – it was his version of the Kevin Bacon game and he was remarkably good at figuring out connections to most anyone he met, in the right settings (most any gathering of Norwegian Minnesotans or Norwegians from select parts of Wisconsin) he could figure out what sort of cousins they were. I don’t quite have his gift, but I do enjoy chatting with someone long enough to see if we know people in common or finding some other connection.

    Love the image, Clyde of Bibs and the young waitress.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. That was a fun story Clyde.

    I’m not good at small talk. Sometimes I’ll comment to people in line but not very often. I’m the guy who just wants to be left alone. And I can give a pretty good cold shoulder if people come across ‘too friendly’.
    I don’t want to become best friends with the clerk; just check me out and let me go.
    That sounds really bad doesn’t it?? I’m sorry for that. But it’s true I’m afraid.
    I dated a girl once; she’d talk to anyone and everyone. Drove me crazy. She could bore a fence post.

    My dad would talk with people. They became good friends with people they met waiting at the clinic.
    I keep thinking about that.

    I had lunch at Lynde’s in Osseo. The ‘Loaded Lynde’s’ was terrific! As were the tator tots.


  12. I love this story, Clyde. If I am in the right mood, I can start up a conversation with anyone, and sometimes I am in the right mood.

    Just found this late post, upon returning from a board meeting/welcoming-new-members gathering. Had enough wine to start up conversations with everybody.


  13. I often have as cold a shoulder as Ben, then again the next time . . . depends these days pain levels.
    Thanks for kind comments all. Long day, too much driving for good of my neck. Not sure I will try this again.


  14. Wonderful post, Clyde, and, as always, I loved your painting. I’m coming late to the conversation because Mondays are a long day of classes and I have no time during the day to check in, and yesterday I was too exhausted after classes to even look at the blog.

    I rarely talk to strangers. It depends on my mood, but I do sometimes talk to someone I don’t know. It’s easier when there is something easy on which to comment (e.g. dog, cat, children). But then I don’t talk much to people I know, either. Sometimes I can run off at the mouth – once I start, I can’t seem to stop, but that’s maybe once or twice a year.

    Those studies that females say woman speak 20,000 words a day? There is absolutely no way that I get close to that total, except those rare days when I can’t stop talking. Even if you count text messages or emails, I wouldn’t say that many words. I can’t imagine talking that much on a regular basis. Maybe after listening to some people who never stop talking, I just like the silence.

    Liked by 1 person

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