If you pay attention, you’ll notice that the sidewalks along Summit Avenue change patterns every few paces. The typical wide squares will turn to horizontal slats, to square grids, to hexagons if you walk far enough. Almost every sidewalk is lined with tulips and lavender trees. In many places, there are wrought-iron fences that sculpt the border between public street and private lawn.

summit avenue
The sun-dappled sidewalk on Lawton Avenue invites passersby to stroll past the home at 476 Summit Ave. that was constructed in 1883-85 for Chauncey and Martha Griggs.

There are no dead trees on Summit. Each tree that lines the edge of a house or stands in a yard is a vibrant green. The leaves give off the scent of fresh spring air as you pass by. The neighborhood is almost like a fantasy; it seems too perfect to be in the middle of metropolitan chaos. When you walk past the grand houses and historic mansions, chaos doesn’t exist. On this hill, time stops.

Spring had just arrived when my father and I took our most recent walk along Summit. There was a slight chill in the air, and the flowers had barely bloomed. We began our walk in a different place than our previous walk, and instead of heading toward the main street of the neighborhood, we turned the opposite way and headed toward buildings we hadn’t seen before. It wasn’t long before we had to turn back for an umbrella. Droplets covered the ground in small dots until every street was painted a darker hue than it was before.

Though it was raining, it was easy to see that the sun was just waiting to make an appearance. A bright white flooded the sky, the rain was light, and the wind was barely moving. My father waited in the car while I roamed the cobblestone alleys under the umbrella. As I expected, the rain stopped only minutes after it began, and our walk was underway again.

   

As the cars creep past, I like to think that behind the tinted windows there are children in awe of the castle-like houses they see. I wonder if they notice the steeples on some houses or the detailed carvings on others. I wonder if they’ll remember this place as they grow older. I like to think they’ll come back and walk the street as I do now.

As we walked, people jogging or walking their dogs passed by. I gave them quick smiles, and I wondered if they found as much beauty in this place as I do. When there are no people passing by on the sidewalk, there are cars passing by on the street. As the cars creep past, I like to think that behind the tinted windows there are children in awe of the castle-like houses they see. I wonder if they notice the steeples on some houses or the detailed carvings on others. I wonder if they’ll remember this place as they grow older. I like to think they’ll come back and walk the street as I do now.

There is a house on a corner that we passed, and if there wasn’t a car in the driveway I would’ve thought the house was abandoned. Ivy climbed the side of the house and wrapped its arms around the gutters and windowsills. The ivory curtains were pulled shut, and the window panes looked like they were untouched by anything except dust. The yard was overgrown with crabgrass and dandelions, and the steps were brown with dirt. Even so, the house was beautiful. The brick that lined the exterior was a rich brown, the unkempt yard was sparkling green, and each curve and edge of the house seemed as though it had been carved by the gods themselves. That is the beauty of Summit Avenue: nothing is ordinary, everything is alive and elegant.

 

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We neared the end of our walk, having circled back to the place where our car was parked. By now all the raindrops had been dried by sun. I realized that I wasn’t tired. In fact, I’m never tired after a walk along Summit Avenue. My skin doesn’t burn under the sun. My eyes don’t droop. My legs don’t falter. It’s as though my body believes it criminal to experience any kind of pain in a place so beautiful.

As I opened the door to our car, I remembered how hard it is to leave this place. I know that when I come back, the bright red tulips will be wilted, and the sweet smelling magnolia trees will have lost their pink. I know that by the time I make it back, the green leaves might have turned to orange ones or perhaps left empty branches. It pains me to know that I cannot stay here forever, that I cannot watch the changes happen. But I know that I’ll be back, and just like before, it will be the same Summit Avenue I fell in love with on my first trip up the hill.

— Emmy Bohmbach

Emmy Bohmbach, 17, lives in Red Wing.

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