There is a trail I’ve grown to love. A roughly kept path, both rutted with roots and covered in cobwebs, it’s a weekly venture I now refer to as six miles long and two hours deep.
I’m the only one on this stretch, just me and my hound. It feels abandoned and forgotten—or perhaps never discovered. As if prepared for footfall but neglected of promotion.
It’s divided into neatly portioned passages, each segment unique with temperament and attitude. To enter one is to be enrobed within that identity, where changes, both subtle and of magnitude, shift your focus and your vigilance.
A spread of one mile bears a perfect canopy, deciduous arms reaching to embrace and braid, the rustling sounds of leaf brushing leaf and branch chafing branch.
Another offers the heat of sun and great crunch underfoot, as in this landscape, only those forged in a fever can cope and thrive.
Along the route there are dens and burrows. Fallen trees extend the invitation to any fauna weary of their old abodes to nestle somewhere new, a chance to peak from behind still rooted tubers and discern if this view will suffice.
There sits a sanctum halfway through where modern day has not been given permission to bloom. A small, grassy clearing dotted with the remnants of those who lived on it first—or died on it last. A lichened crop of chimney stones resist the urge to collapse, to follow those who built it toward a soft grave of repose.
The surreally green colored moss floor muffles all that travels across or through it, a lush weighted blanket keeping history quiet, but comforted.
Three corner stones, the vestiges of walls, invite the visitor to conjure the past and evoke voices long suppressed by the quelling power of isolation. They still whisper though. But only if you listen.
And I do.
I listen more, hear more, breathe more, smell more. I feel the gnarly rough-skinned barely buried roots that spread beneath my feet, catch my shoe, stub my toe. I feel the sponginess of rotting trees as I traverse across them, the pliable composition of their cells. The crack of their forgiving nature resounds across the hollow or the hilltop, upsetting the status quo soundscape and thrusting a hush upon the busy conversation of all woodland tongues.
There is an unraveling that takes place when walking unencumbered. When untethered from manmade sound, sights, and people. This is a forum for the memory reels to unspool, for the strolling narrator to develop his tale, for soliloquy in all its unpracticed inelegance to gush forth without restraint.
This trail is where I find rebalance. Where presets are over-ridden, and recalibration transpires. It is where rejection is handled, malfunctions are tackled, and failures owned. Insight is sought—if one hopes to move forward—for there is little benefit to a walk such as this if deep and soulful pursuit of the truth is ignored.
Emerging on the other side is transcendent and electrifying. Revelatory in that the accomplishment of such a trek was as feasible as hoped, and wondrous with the fresh new mental space now unoccupied.
The trail stays with me only fleetingly, the feel of crushed pine needles beneath me, the scent of forest floor decay, the melody of life as it exists in that treasured space.
So, I soldier on until next time. I muddle through the concrete days, the desk-filled hours, the mundane and must-be-dones.
The path waits there for me … or for no one.
But it is there, and I have felt its wonder.
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