Trail Song

Early morning exudes a distinct scent. Especially when the night has been washed by storms. Clean, earthy, dark. Cool.

Just beyond the bridge leading me away from the asphalt and into the woods, shards of sunlight stab their way through the trees to the misty clearing below. A warren of rabbits scatters frantically like we are beginning a game of tag. I, apparently, am to be “it”.

A swallowtail flutters over a thistle blossom. The hillside is covered with them. I think how many summer days my brother spent with a mattock eradicating these hazardous menaces from our cow pasture. Here they are welcomed. Nourishment for butterflies and birds. Context.

Queen Anne’s Lace forms a brilliant fringe all along the dark green edge of the forest path. Like a petticoat. As a little girl, I used to bring their cornmeal scented blossoms home to my mother. I remember tugging at their woody stems til my hands were raw. Most often, I ended up extracting them by the roots, leaving their grooming to my mother. I also remember that sometimes there is a single, tiny violet blossom in the center of all the white. I have never known why this is so.

A pair of mourning doves have planted themselves atop a fanciful bend in a very old tree. They look for all the world like an elderly couple perched on the front porch with coffee and newspaper. Surveying their world with aplomb. Underneath them, a busy squirrel skitters about frantically. I imagine he has been sent out on a breakfast run.

I have been pondering mushrooms. They distract me with their exuberant extravagance of form, texture, and hue. My favorites are the dark gray ones that nod atop slender white stems. Whimsical little things, they, with spidery tracery corralled by tight, gray curlicues. I am also intrigued by golden torpedoes that open into delicate, lemony parasols fit for a geisha. A very small geisha.

If silence could be gathered into melody and sung from one person to another, it would sound very like the music of Arvo Part. He has been singing his liquid silence to me since my run began. It is rather peculiar how the music screens out distant car horns and screeching brakes, but manages to admit birdsong and the beating of wings. Synergy. This music. This place.

As I run down the hill, my eyes wander to a spot in the grass, by the side of the river, where earlier this week a man took his own life. And I wonder, what caused him to despair? To whom did he surrender his last measure of hope? How deeply must one be hurting to come to this place throbbing with glory, and still want to die? My heart hurts for him. And for those who love him. Lord, have mercy.

And I carry all these things inside me. Grief, yes. And blossoms, and butterflies, and birdsong. Whimsy, exuberance, and joy. Gifts from the trail. Sustenance…for whatever comes…