April 27, 2021

Nice day for a walk in the woods.


There are only two days in the year that nothing can be done.  One is called yesterday and the other is called tomorrow, so today is the right day to love, believe, do and mostly live.

-Dalai Lama


I’m walking along on a footpath through the woods.  Waldo’s up front with my companions, Christine and Phyllis, and I bring up the rear, breathing the piney forest air, listening to squirrels and chipmunks chatter and the birds sing.  The cloudless blue sky above is punctured by the scrawny, bony fingers of leafless deciduous trees.  Here and there are a few scattered old-growth large-bole conifers that provide the only green to be seen.  On the ground, a thin blanket of tawny, rotting leaves swathe the bottoms of the tree trunks in a thin blanket.  Underfoot, the well-aerated soft earth cushions my step and sounds soft and hollow as I plod along.  The temperature is in the mid-fifties and I am quite comfortable in shirtsleeves.

It’s still early spring, but, looking closely, I see buds on the trees, bushes and weeds.  Some of the buds even have tiny, but recognizable, leaves sprouting out into the sunlight.  The color of the twigs and branches has changed from their wintry anemic grey to sanguine green, deep browns and even some red.  I can’t help but wonder how different this forest will feel when all leaved out.  The world will seem closer and smaller, sound won’t carry as far and the air will be much fuller with the odor of life and the buzzing of insects.  This is a great time for a walk in the woods.  The snow and ice are gone, the ground is dry (for now) and it’s neither too cold nor too hot.  Instead of looking for shade to cool off, or wanting to curl up in a ball to conserve body heat, I can relax into my surroundings and physically open myself up to the ambience.  I can’t help, in the process, to also open up psychologically and experience the moment as it is as it happens.

Today, we are on the second leg of the Bay Circuit Trail.  We started out from where we left off in Rowley and followed surface streets until we got to Prospect Hill.  There, we passed a big concrete water tank and, at the top of the hill, there’s a cell tower.  From then on, we are lovingly embraced by the Willowdale State Forest until we end in Ipswich on US Rte 1.  The trail is not well-marked and we get lost in the woods at first.  We soon see our error and retrace our steps until we are back on the right track.  The trail is a footpath at this point, but there are old carriage roads in the forest in some places that provide wide avenues to hike down.  None of the trek is paved.  A number of paths branch off to one side or the other, but we are able to stay on track by watching for the Bay Circuit Trail logo that some kind soul posted on trees indicating the way to go.

You know, it might be nice to get lost in here – if we didn’t have so far to go, that is.  To be lost, but unworried, and just open to your immediate surroundings.  To let go and not try to follow any particular path, not try to control what happens, but just wander down this path and then that.  Take in the forest as it reveals itself to you.  Breathe the fresh air, smell the dusty earth, listen to the chirping birds, feel the sun and shade as they wash across your skin and look at the slumbering life as it slowly awakens.  There’s no way you can stay lost, even if you tried.  All you have to do is just keep walking down a trail, it doesn’t matter which one, and sooner or later, you’ll come across some piece of civilization that will reorient you.  There’s just not that much wilderness in these parts.  If I have any worry about getting lost, it’s one of having to trek too many additional miles to get back to the car because we went off-trail.

Waldo, he doesn’t care.  I think he’s always lost on these walks of ours.  He relies on me to get us home.  Nose to the ground, ears perked up, eyes front, he just takes life as it comes down the path, without trying to force it to be, or not to be, something that it isn’t.

He just might be the most found of the four of us.


In some places, the trail is as wide as a road.

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