November 15, 2022

Back at the rail-trail — at last.



The Greek word for “return” is nostos.  Algos means “suffering.”  So nostalgia is the suffering caused by an unappeased yearning to return.

-Milan Kundera


Well, Waldo and I made it back to the rail-trail.  As soon as Waldo is out of the car, he’s tugging at the end of the leash.  I can almost hear him say, “Oh boy!  Oh boy!  Oh boy!”  And then he’s across the street and in the bushes, sniffing his heart out.  I look down the path and I’m immediately smitten by the idyllic autumn colors and the beckoning allure of a country path.

We’re not walking far, just a couple of miles, but we’re back.  I feel a certain and definite nostalgia for the place.  Not because we’ve been in these woods so often, not because Waldo and I have invested so much time and effort here, not even because we enjoy its beauty — there are many trails we’ve been on that display their own beauty.  I’m drawn to this trail because it’s our trail.  Over the years, we’ve established a bond – I know many of the plants and animals by name: red, black and white oaks, staghorn sumacs, and black walnuts; various types of mosses, ferns and grasses; eastern gray squirrels, eastern chipmunks and New England cottontail rabbits; red-tailed hawks, red-bellied woodpeckers, and northern cardinals; even gypsy moth caterpillars.  Waldo and I have made friends with the trees, bushes, weeds, animals and even insects.  And now that we’re back, they all seem to be greeting us with smiles and murmurs.  It may be my imagination, but Mother Nature even appears to have dressed up for the occasion — showing off mottled gowns of bright green, yellow and red, besparkled by splotches of autumn sunlight piercing through the canopy.  We’re back home.

When at the ballpark, Waldo gallops as hard as he can, for as long as he can.  It’s as if he has a frenzied head of steam built up that he has to release.  Here, he is still very energetic and runs at a fast trot from interesting twig to smelly glob of I-don’t-know-and-don’t-want-to-know what.  The difference is that along the trail, he is engaged.  He may not know and could care less about the names of what he senses, but he interacts with everything.  Smelling most of what he confronts, watching some, listening and feeling what’s going on around him and even tasting and eating some of it (there are certain leaves he likes to eat).  In his own way, Waldo has made friends with our trail too.

I don’t think I’m anthropomorphizing when I say that Waldo prefers going on our walks to just visiting an open field off-leash and letting ‘er rip.  He may need to get that border collie energy burned out of his system, but here, he’s living the dream.  There is so much variety and stimulating temptation.  Every foot of ground has something different to explore and experience with whatever sense he can bring to bear.  His tail is up and wagging and there’s a bounce in his step as he flits with vigor from one object of interest to the next.

Today, the air is cool with the slightest of breezes.  The sky is cloud-free and sunlight falls soft in pastel hues that illuminate in technicolor without making you squint.  Patches of shadow dance on the tarmac in sync with the whispering wind in the leaves.  It’s still quite early in the fall, but, already, many tan and yellowed dead oak, maple, birch, sassafras and walnut leaves lay on the ground.  In a few weeks, there will be a carpet of color covering the trail making it look like the yellow brick road in Oz.  But, for now, there is just a suggestion of that which is to come.  There’s still a lot of green up in the trees with only a dab here and there of yellow and orange.  That, too, will soon change and in a month or so, the trees will become skeletal shadows of what they were.  Much has changed in the time since our last visit, but it remains so very familiar, just the same.

My leg hurts a bit, so I make us turn around and head home.  Waldo follows a little reluctantly, I think.  My pain is still tolerable, but I don’t want to overdo and suffer a setback that will keep us away even longer.  The worst of the pain still happens at night when I lay down and I can only sleep for a couple of hours before the ache wakes me up.  I don’t want to make that worse, either.

Once home, Waldo’s much more sedate and satisfied than he has been for almost two months now.  The difference is palpable.  I, too, feel a blissful, calming fatigue.  My muscles seem to tell me that it’s time to rest, yet not with an urgent need, but more of a welcomed appreciation, like a full stomach after a gourmet meal requests a nice siesta.  Legs up, I lay in my recliner with an audible “Aaaah.”  Waldo is out laying on the balcony, peacefully surveying his dogdom.

Both Waldo and I are grateful to be on the rail-trail once again.


We missed this place.




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