This was all once alive. The abrupt smell of pavement was once the citrusy soil, the slight tingle of fermentation, undeniably sweetened by aging leaves of hemlock and maple, dark orange and a flat, slippery sort of yellow. Insects, bacteria, the microbiome. Once, long ago, the early evening brought robins together on tight tree elbows. Long, steady whistles, trills like choppy water. No car-herd grumble; no un-crossable freeways, floods, bulky metal replacing the river. Back then, you could walk and walk and this would all have been forest. No blocky retail stores, no red lights, green lights, dismal beige condos; no parking lots. The milky, yellow streetlights didn’t dull the colors of the world, nor mangle the grayness of distant clouds. As I sit in my car, I can’t help but wonder–what kind of an exchange have we made? And… was it worth it?