Tonight when I stepped into the woods, my thoughts wandered from the familiar path of clichés and manic torment to a place of distant memories. As much as I wanted to gather my thoughts and sort out ideas about work, life, love and all the things walkers should sort out, I just couldn’t go there.
Instead I was overwhelmed by the familiarity of the woods; not so much the woods as I stand in them now, but just the familiarity of it, of it all. The scents and sounds, the moist colors of green and earth. It captured me again. I listened intently — and so very effortlessly — to the sounds of the woods; the birds, wind, and the occasional snap of a twig.
As quickly as I stepped into the woods I as quickly felt I had found myself again, I found myself as a little boy playing in the ravines and hills around my first home. I was a good kid, smart and, for what I had, somewhat bold, too. I spent much time alone wandering, exploring. There must have been a period of years when my clothes were forever stained with grass and mud, my skin scratched and bug-bitten. The polished set, I did not represent well. I liked that. I fancied myself a pioneer.
It wasn’t perfect though. My tangled mop of bleached blonde hair didn’t quite fit the adventures I sought. I thought black hair would be more appropriate. (Look more like an Indian, you know.) But I certainly did make the best of it.
Like I dd so often then, I wandered off the path tonight, wandered through the brush and the weeds. I discovered a place where the deer get through the fence and saw a young buck on the hill on the other side and felt as proud of my discovery as I would have felt when I was 10.
Then I returned to the path in the woods and as I put my foot onto a root to step up I felt a break, a pause in it all. A snap, like the snap of a hypnotist’s fingers to awaken the slumber. Think of a double-hung window hanging in my chest slipping unexpectedly and slamming shut. Or think of a guillotine.
A more nervous chap might have feared a heart attack, or at least steadied himself. But I froze. I stopped and in that moment I understood exactly what broke. I wasn’t young anymore. I wasn’t the little boy playing around in the goddamn woods. I was just a man on a walk, and not a young man either. I had reached a point where I can’t say if I am toward the end or just wandering about.
Just shrug it off. That’s what you do. And that’s what I did. There is no reason why I can’t come back to the woods and step off the trail again and wander in the past. Until then, time spent on ideas about work, life, love and all those other things, well, those are things a little boy doesn’t really understand. So in the end I am happy I have made it this far and have been given the opportunities, good and bad, that I have had.
One can’t help but wonder what tomorrow’s walk might be. There is something promising about that.