Scenes from the Daily Walk

Here are some pictures of the trail I hike every day. These pictures were taken two weeks ago, and I’m amazed at how much the view has changed since I took them. The leaves are all larger now, and many of the trees that were still completely bare-branched then are starting to bud.

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I can see the lake through the trees for much of the walk. This means, of course, that on sunny days my walk is often accompanied by the sounds of boat motors, shouted conversations about fishnets and bait, and sometimes by loud strains of country music. But on rainy days I hear the water slapping against the clay banks, and in some plays the odd glug and boom of the lake hurling itself in to hollows under the tree roots at water’s edge. And when there are storms at the coast, I hear the bagpipe-shrill voices of Seagulls, come inland to wait out the weather.

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These woods aren’t very wild. The trails are tucked between the lake (which is really a very large man-made reservoir) and a road that loops around the lake in a big curve. Humanity is ever-present. This means two things; I really prefer wet weather, as I’m more likely to have the woods to myself, and, I’ve started carrying a plastic bag in my backpack so that I can pick up trash. But I’m finding plenty to fascinate me in this stretch of trails. I’m surprised at the variety of green things; I’ve found fringe cup, fairy slipper orchids, fairy bells, western meadow rue, sword ferns, maidenhair ferns, bracken ferns, trout lily’s, wild irises, candy tuft, miner’s lettuce, oregon grape, elderberry bushes, salmon berries, skunk cabbage, pacific waterleaf, osoberry, and all sorts of mosses and lichens and some mushrooms who I couldn’t begin to identify. Vine maples, big leaf maples, douglas firs, western red cedars, hazels, ash, oak, hawthorn, wild cherry, and some I don’t know yet. Every day I wish I was stronger, so I could walk further, spend more time bending over the plants out here to see what they do, then come home and find all their names.

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This is, obviously, NOT the trail. This is a place where the woods close in tight around a tiny creek that flows out in to the lake, but I love the shape of it, and the way, this early in the year, you get the delicious contrasting greens; the almost-yellow of the just-emerging leaves and blossoms, then the richer leaf green of the forest floor, and then that wonderful deep forest green of the red cedars, plus those great olive and grey-green shades from all the mosses and lichens. There’s a place where the creek widens out in to the lake, and here the water looks dull turquoise, almost gray against the truer greens of the woods, but I can’t ever capture it with a photograph.

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This is on the other side of the creek, moving deeper in to the trail. I’ve only explored about a fourth of the main trail, and some of the little side trails that meander off of it.

You might think it would get boring, walking this same trail every day. But so far it becomes more fascinating every day, rather than less. Every day the leaves are bigger; every day, something that was bare before has swelling buds or tiny leaves unfurling; every day the blossoms are bigger, or are fading, or changing color, or there are new blooms. Every day I notice something new that I missed the day before. And most days, I manage to walk just a little bit further, find myself that tiny bit stronger.

I’m trying to let the forest teach me patience. Trying to allow myself to get to know it one step, one leaf, one bloom at a time. Trying to allow my body to grow stronger one walk at a time. I’m not patient by nature; I want it all now. I want to know the name of everything, and how it grows, and I want to be able to walk all day, up hill and down, without every growing tired. But I walk here, every day, and I watch spring unfold at the perfect pace. The leaves are not in a hurry to stretch to fullness; the flowers are not in a  hurry to open; the creek is not in a hurry to reach the lake; the trees are not in a hurry to reach the sky.

The chipmunks are another story; they are very, very impatient for me to leave, and they have no qualms about telling me so. I think I admire the trees more, and will try to listen to their slow, still advice, and not let the chipmunks hurry me on my way.

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