Mindfully setting my foot on the path, I inhale the flavors of the woods. The morning rain and afternoon sun have merged into a comforting haze hanging in the solemn forest. The cedar wood chips comprising the trail release a dense fragrance like red wine underfoot while vines of honeysuckle dangle perfumed flowers overhead. As I breathe in the moldy sweetness of the damp leaves and the humid air settles around me, all the tension of my body is released as if I’m embraced by a dear old friend.
As the retiring sun sinks below the treetops, it sparks the last drying raindrops on the broad leaves of laurels and young oaks. Like diamonds set to light my way they shimmer and twinkle and draw me out of the cool shade of the overgrown briar toward the exposed hillside.
The edge of the knoll has been mowed close and in the stillness, the intensity of freshly cut grass erases other thoughts from my mind as it mingles with the earthy aroma of mud that randomly sprouts fingers of tiny mushrooms. Defiant dandelions tower their tall wispy seed heads over yellow buttercups trailing from the sunlight to the dappled boundary of the tree line.
A rustle from the thicket makes me stop and guess ‘friend or foe,’ only to watch a squirrel bound from shrub to tree trunk. His claws scritch and scratch as he scrambles up the smooth bark of a large sycamore and rests on a sturdy branch drenched in blinding beams of golden light. Camouflaged by the noisy climb, a courageous rabbit ventures out from under the bramble to nestle in and nibble a tranquil patch of flower-topped clover as evening arrives.
Just ahead where the trail turns to meadow, a few robins quickly scurry to maintain their distance from me and then surrender to flight as my pace closes too soon. Disturbed is a duel of doves, and the coos of their panicked flurry warn a persistent drake pursuing a reluctant duck, now relieved that her suitor has been distracted.
Although never intending to menace my neighbors, the blackbirds join the commotion, whistling and chirping advisories as well. The long screech of a red-tail hawk shreds the remaining silence and looking up in wonder at the soaring predator, I know that no movement goes undetected in the realm he reigns.
The vivid reflection of the sky and trees on the mirrored water makes me want to dive into that other world and swim through the clouds painted on the surface. As my trek takes me round the pond’s perimeter I walk nearer the cattails and tall grasses that disguise the hideouts of nesting geese. Turning toward me, a pair of identical birds extends their necks and wings to threaten against my intrusion. Respectfully, I retreat in silence to reassure the nervous parents I mean their brood no harm.
As I near where the path turns back to concrete and draw closer to the hum of the highway in the distance, a momentary sentiment rises slowly within me, like that of a departing guest who must leave her hosts at the station, already missing the travel not even having returned home.
I take one last breath of moist and scented sunshine to help this place linger within me just a little while longer.
Until we meet again.