Walk #1, Year 2 Reflection. On October 3, 2015, from Scandinavian Middle School, 7 walkers covered the area between Dakota and Clinton, and the Fresno Airport to Hwy 168. This walk was a mix of a county island and the City of Fresno. While gathering in front of Scandinavian Middle School, we could see three individuals gathering around their shopping cart homes across the street. The apartments across from the school entrance had boarded up windows, dirt courtyards, and exposed garbage bins. One pick-up truck had a stack of flattened cardboard boxes piled higher than the cab, tied with ropes in the back. The school gates were locked, but the sports fields were open and soccer families were arriving. Across the sports fields we could see Addicott, a Fresno Unified school for severely disabled students. Addicott faces the Fresno airport runways, directly below the flight path of departing planes–and there were many fighter jets taking off this particular morning.
This walk roamed neighborhoods with a mix of houses, apartments, and even a few spaces with mobile homes. Many houses had multiple cars parked in the driveways and on the yards. One street was quiet with birds and tree canopies–the next with traffic noise, dogs barking, music coming from a window. One walker described many of the homes as ‘somewhat defeated’–signs of giving up, possibly, due to life circumstances like illness, aging, job losses, and the pressures of poverty surrounding them. In the midst of these neighborhoods were pockets of well-kept older homes and a few newly remodeled or rebuilt homes. Walkers greeted a few people out doing yard work on this beautifully clear, cool morning. Two older people were working in their immaculate corner lot yard, and a family was cleaning out a small flower bed. We met Rodney, who was working in his roadside flower bed that edged his dirt-only front yard. We met Hugo, a graduate of Scandinavian Middle School and McLane High School in his front yard with a demo turf golf putting green. This is his business, and he will soon open a showroom at Shaw and Minnewawa.
Many of these streets dead-end at Hwy 168. When a street ended, Walkers cut through an apartment complex. A homeless man was sitting on the curb with his cart of supplies. Another person was sleeping in front of cars parked in the carport. The apartment complex wrapped around an empty swimming pool that was fenced off. Many windows were boarded up. A few flowers, children’s toys, and small porch gardens showed signs of residents. A Walker talked to Mike, who had several old bikes on a trailer, two broken guitars, and a pile of wires and cables by his feet. With great determination–while talking to himself–he was cutting off the silver cap ends of the cables. He asked if we were a church group and where we lived. He said he had been in “these parts” a long time.
Walkers strolled the edge of the Fresno Airport near Shields and Chestnut. At the Signature Flight Support entrance, we witnessed families saying goodbye to their military family members. Walkers learned these men and women were being deployed to Kuwait for 12 months. Watching these goodbye scenes was incredibly moving for Walkers. The juxtaposition–of the challenges we had just seen in nearby neighborhoods and the sight of these young men and women leaving their families for a year–added a new layer of perspective. These soldiers were voluntarily leaving their families to defend our American way of life–and some Walkers wondered: “Is that ‘way of life’ available to all Americans?” One Walker said to a soldier standing by himself, away from the others saying goodbye to their families: “I wish for you the best. Please return safely.” He responded with, “Yes, m’am.” A few Walkers had wished some of the soldiers well and sent good thoughts for their safe return… It was hard not to linger a few moments longer, to share the embraces of these young people and their families.
Walkers talked about the conditions of the landscaping due to the drought. There were some dead shrubs and a few dead trees, mostly at abandoned houses, but the trees are hanging in there. These are well-established older neighborhoods, so for large trees that have been maintained, they are able to survive the drought. Many yards were neglected either to comply with water restrictions or for other reasons.
Words used to describe this walk: challenge, struggle, defeated, change, noise, accomplishment, here, old getting older, hodge-podge, beauty, goodbyes.
Sights: Mexican Bird of Paradise, trees, drought damage, full shopping carts, lots of cars at one house, homeless, boarded up homes and boarded up apartments, pockets of well-kept older homes, solar panels, well-established trees, large tree stumps, randomly placed newly rebuilt homes, three yard sales, drought-tolerant new landscaping, helicopter, airplanes, corner markets, freeway, dead ends, cars with flat tires, spots of colorful flowers, soccer families.
Smells: one street had a strong pungent smell, either rotting fruit or a wine making smell? Walkers were unsure of its origin.
Sounds: fighter jets, freeway traffic, dogs, street traffic, birds, motorcycles, music – rap and Spanish music, roosters.
A handful of times during the walk, our ears were blasted with airplane or fighter jet noise. Walkers talked about possible challenges for some of the students and teachers at these schools to endure the loud blasts. Everything shakes and stops when the fighter jets take off. Walkers could feel the vibrations. One Walker described how people get used to it after awhile and learn to live with it. One woman near the jets’ flight paths was acknowledged across the street by a Walker who covered her ears to deal with the noise. The woman called out that she “loved it!” She was afraid to fly and had come out to watch the jets take off… She provided a new perspective that challenged assumptions about the effects of the jet noise on at least one resident in the neighborhood.
The experience of witnessing the goodbyes to the military men and women is something all Walkers talked about. Walkers imagined that it happens many times throughout the year, but some of us are not often aware of who the soldiers are or where they go…
The military families and the people in these neighborhoods are our brothers and sisters in Fresno, and all of our lives and futures are tied together. — at Signature Flight Support FAT – Fresno Yosemite Int’l Airport.This entry was posted in Uncategorized