This from the heart of a lifelong Georgia boy, raised in a small town in the east central piedmont region, longing to say something that will give you pause enough to actually designate a day to stop what you're doing and look around, and discover the treasures we have around us hidden in plain sight.
Covington was once such a small, bucolic town. Life moved at a slower pace, for the hustle and bustle of world economics had not yet discovered Atlanta. All that has changed now, not unlike it changed 50 years ago for the counties of DeKalb, Cobb and Gwinnett when the initial growth of the metropolitan area began.
The next ring of counties, including Henry, Rockdale, Douglas, Coweta and Fayette, all experienced the burgeoning growth and increasingly hectic pace of bedroom communities feeding a metropolis about 30 years ago.
And now the frenzied masses yearning for real estate have found their way to the outer reaches, including the counties of Cherokee, Newton, Walton, Jasper and even beyond. There are folks who actually rent apartments in Atlanta and stay there during the week to save themselves the harried drive to and from work on interstates which feature more and more traffic and omnipresent construction.
The day before yesterday I leashed myself to my wife's dog and set out on foot to rediscover our town. The walk westward on Crestview on toward town on Conyers Street is just absolutely refreshing. The tree-lined street features flower gardens that differ from house to house, and as my wife's dog was all too pleased to pause at each new spot issuing scintillating odors, I had a chance to actually look at what too often I blaze past when driving.
Academy Springs Park and the Lion's Club Pavilion sit between the railroad crossing and where Legion Drive meets Conyers Street. The ponds in Academy Springs have been cleaned up, and folks can lunch there on picnic tables in the midst of a respite only a few blocks from downtown. Believe it or not, there are nearly seven acres of land for sale adjoining the park, a little spot of wilderness right in the heart of historic Covington.
Just up the hill toward town East Street crosses Conyers. There, on the northwest corner, sits a little architectural treasure of a house, recently refurbished and featuring a yard I love to look at, for it has all those plants that butterflies and hummingbirds spend time visiting.
The dog and I turned south down East Street, walking down what seems a private country lane, to visit the two new houses Kay Brown and Cheryl Delk built adjoining the cemetery. They were still there Friday afternoon, 2226 and 2228 East St., respectively. My wife likes the bigger one, which she calls "the Harry Potter house." I like the smaller one, for it has a view from the back porch of the area where the unknown soldiers from the American Civil War rest in peace.
It's pretty amazing to me that two architecturally interesting and fabulously constructed jewels can be sitting there, hidden in plain sight just two blocks as the crow flies from the Covington Square. And I wonder how many folks take the time to actually walk around town to see what we so often just miss as we hustle to our next appointment in our chariots.
My wife's dog and I visited the square, then turned east on Floyd Street. Two of my favorite houses in the whole town are tucked next to each other, nearly hiding in the shadow of the big antebellum homes which line Floyd. They're at 1194 and 1198 Floyd St. Both are brick houses, with front porches, built along about the middle of the 20th century, back in the day when the dad worked and the mom stayed at home with the kids, and one salary was enough for America to live that way. One of the houses has moss growing on the front porch roof, which always reminds me of English thatched roof houses.
Just east of the big antebellum homes and across the street from the Caldwell/Cowan Funeral Home are two brick houses which hearken back to an earlier time. For the masses hastening past at 45 miles per hour, they're more or less invisible, really. They're just a blur for drivers talking on cell phones and using tunnel vision as they blaze up and down Floyd Street. For those who can find time to walk and look, they are stunning.
Martin Street branches off Floyd about four blocks east of the funeral home. As the dog and continued east on Martin, we took in the splendor of one of the last undeveloped patches of earth inside the city limits. There are a few ponds and big old pecan trees, a small forest of pines and various hardwoods all occupying about 25 acres, and I'm guessing. We've seen a small herd of deer grazing in the pasture from time to time, but Friday it looked like the forest patch is being thinned out so the deer were nowhere to be seen.
Turning south on Flat Rock Trail as we headed for home, I reflected again on my opinion that if there's a prettier stretch of residential neighborhood than the three miles or so that we'd walked I'll have to see it to believe it.
At the bottom of the hill on Flat Rock is a creek running from those ponds, and my wife's dog dearly loves to frolic in the creek. She'll bury herself in the mud and slime, then jump out and get upside down on the lush grass conveniently provided by the homeowners there and rub the mud out of her eyes.
The dog has to do that three times before she's ready to continue the walk. I've learned this over time, you see.
Something else I learned Friday on my purposeful meandering was that nearly every driver I encountered was talking on a cell phone while driving. I recall a recent news story reporting that a study has shown talking on a cell phone can impair a driver as much as consuming two alcoholic drinks. And that gave me pause as I walked my wife's dog on streets which had no sidewalks, believe me.
Finally, though, it's my hope that those of us fortunate enough to live in these parts will actually take time to stop and look around us. I don't have enough room in this column to describe all the gems the dog and I encountered on our walk, and have told you only of a few.
But this much I know. For those who can make the time to stop and get out on foot and actually look around, there are a myriad of treasures hidden in plain sight right here in our town.
Nat Harwell is a Newton County resident whose column appears Sundays in The Covington News.