On days when I want to feel immensely popular, I take Callie-dog for a romp down the trail to the duck pond behind our house. She tears down the trail ahead of me, whipping around the crest of the hill, her feathery blond tail whirling, past monstrous anthills that are somewhat deflated now that the tenants have moved out. Her joy is infectious. It makes me want to run, too, but I force myself to walk slow.
She leaves me to wander alone past piles of damp deadfall lining an overgrown woods road. I spy the blaze orange of her vest just ahead and know she is busy sniffing out rabbit tracks, but will be back presently to check on me. At a fork in the trail, I turn left and enter the Dark Woods; a gloomy place, damp and shadowed with spindly spruce. There is very little soil on top of the rock here and uprooted trees pile like pickup sticks, sparse roots ripped from the moss and stone.
The days are deathly quiet now, the birds still, insects hunkered down for winter. I can see where an animal – perhaps a deer – has trod a short while ago, lifting the sodden mat of leaves. I watch for animal tracks in the damp mud and spy a cigar-shaped string of coyote scat.
These days, in the silence of autumn, I try to quiet my mind so I do not walk in oblivion. I try hard to pay attention to what I see and smell and hear. A while ago, I finished reading Sharon Butala’s wonderful book, Perfection of the Morning. Sharon lives in rural Saskatchewan and writes about her beloved prairie. She, too, appreciates long walks and the subtleties of the landscape. She, too, looks for the hidden stories and tries to listen for the voices of the land. It made me sigh in relief to read her words…she had found a way to express the inexpressible within me.
I feel frustration that I don’t know all the stories. I see, but I don’t understand. My mind is coming alive and it has questions. But it will come. I have time to find the answers.