My wife and I went on a walk Wednesday evening around 8:15. It was one of those evenings of clement weather that make one feel guilty for being inside. The neighbor’s three year old daughter agreed with this sentiment and tried to make her parents understand. We could hear her say in a small but matter-of-fact voice, “No. I can go to bed when the sun goes down!” I don’t think her petition carried through, but we took her thought to heart and set out on a walk for the remaining forty-five minutes of daylight.

            The temperature was in the sixties; the Kansas wind was giving its lungs a rest, and the city’s vegetation was getting in the spring, green spirit. We walked, hand in hand, under maple trees covered in new leaves, past gardeners tending their small plots and yards at various stages of dandelion infestation. Many of Newton’s side streets (I noticed E. Sixth especially) are paved with bricks and a few are still sand that crunched under our shoes. We heard turtle doves cooing and dogs barking, cars revving and people shouting.

            Mr. Hilaire Belloc, the prolific travel writer, historian, Catholic apologist and philosopher said, “One’s native place is the shell of one’s soul, and one’s church is the kernel of that nut.” But I was struck, as we walked how little I know my “native place.” I do only know it as a “shell.” I know and remember the outsides of the city buildings and houses and know the general layout of Newton’s street grid, but I am woefully ignorant of its inner workings, of the humanity and raw life inside those buildings.

            But even with all that ignorance of the place in which I was walking. I enjoyed myself immensely. Maybe I would have enjoyed it less had I really known the city around me.

            It was just getting dark as we walked in our front door energized and flushed. The neighbor girl, no doubt, was asleep by then. 

R. Eric Tippin
In "The Study on 8th Street"
May 11, 2013