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On Friday evening, while my older children were practicing plies in ballet class, smallest child and I went on a chilled city walk. First, the proper bundling for my cheerful companion:

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Once thus established, we were on our way. It was dark, frigid, and there were few people about. This was unusual: the neighborhood in which we wandered is called the Santa Fe Arts District, and it is filled with galleries, dance studios, political and media centers, and has become over the past several years one of the beacons of Denver’s rapid development.

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The area still, however, has a welcome feel of decrepitude: the buildings are old, dirty, and mainly unkempt, and some of the storefronts appear to house businesses of questionable legitimacy. I dread the day a Starbucks rolls in.

 

 

 

 

On our walk we saw closed galleries with light glinting off darkened windows.

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Some finger drawn smudges on old long neglected glass caught the lamppost glow, turned it cloud-grey.

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Although this part of Santa Fe Street is primarily devoted to galleries, one can still find shops hawking oddities and things forgotten or cast-off.

Who, I wondered, listened and danced to this album of Carmen, now sitting dusty and dark-eyed in a small display case?

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How many birds murmured their yoked song in this narrow domed cage? In what lovely Victorian hallway or salon might have the bird-palace been displayed? Upon seeing it, I could hear the subdued sound of finches, or the higher song of a petite parakeet.

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We came upon a mural. I didn’t want to frighten smallest child, but we took a moment to take it all in nonetheless. “Eye,” I gestured for her; “mouth.” I didn’t mention the teeth. Were her dreams that night visited by dragons?

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It was getting cold. The child’s cheeks were pink-rounded snow cones; time to head back.

Colorful tangles of tiny lights reminded us that Christmas is coming. And when middle Dream-Child saw this photo she said it was “sparkles, grass, and flowers.” What do you see?

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On the walk back to pick up smallest child’s sister and brother we lingered in front of the crumbling Aztlan Theater, a lovely 20’s era structure in great need of gentle restoration. Not too much, though. Before we know it, the thing will be condos.

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We trundled past restaurants half empty, and the streets seemed to grow darker; rarely did we see any other wanderers, just the occasional hunched soul hurrying toward bus, bar, bed.

The child was quiet, watching. I felt the sort of solitude one absorbs only within a wintered city nightscape: rare rushing passerby, lamp-lit cars, color and darkness both. The shadows of the city without light change for the observer its meaning. Curiosity. Trepidation. The blending of the two. Did smallest child feel this as well?

The lampposts cast a blue haze throughout the thin winter night-air as they led us along the boulevard.

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Almost there. Cold now and hurrying. The city turned to dream, and blurred the visions of my sleep-self throughout the long, snow crystallized night.

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