An October Walk
October 2, 2022
I set out through the backyard, down the bit of driveway and road to the pasture. Dandelions nicked by the frost had blackened tips. The pasture was full of clover and thick lush grass. Field corn is being chopped on the hill above. The hoodie was a mistake, as the sun beat down I was becoming too warm. It was just past three o’clock when I set out. The trees ahead beckoned me forward, boxelders and oaks. My ankles turned on uneven ground. I observed a honeybee, grasshoppers, and a cabbage moth. I opened a gate, walk a little to the left, downhill near a bur oak, and onward to the edge of the woods. Under the fence? No, the woods are so thick with brambles, blackberry bushes that would snare me. I skirt the fence along the left, turn a little and keep going. Climbing uphill. I take in the trees along the edge, particularly walnut, aspen and birch. I crawl under the fence where the underbrush doesn’t look so thick. I continue onward, following the contour of the bluff, sticking to deer paths. I stirred up a creature, probably a rabbit. Crows chatted. Twigs snap underfoot and branches brush past my shoulders. I step over logs and fallen branches, duck under limbs, and sometimes nearly crawl; rarely do I take an easy route, no adventure in that. I am appalled at the old tires someone long ago stashed here. Dead trees litter the woods. I enjoy the light trickling through the tree branches. A buck rubbed his antlers on a tree along the path. It is so dry. I keep close to the fence line. Sometimes going further away to the right but steer back uphill. I enjoy exploring new territory. I come to a big ravine, going down and up along a fallen tree. My knees ache. My feet slide in the leaf litter. I am so happy to not be milking – I got outside of the basement too!
The valley becomes increasingly deeper, wider, and prettier. Another ravine. A coyote! I just see its retreating back end but am amazed all the same. Exposed bedrock – my heart really stirs at this; rocks and trees. Moss covered dead trees lay here and there. More rocks. As I continue walking, it becomes more evident I am on a bluff. Sometimes I glimpse the pasture through the trees. I crawl up onto a rock – look down a little to my left, my heart elevated, and laugh. Maple trees. I haven’t spontaneously laughed for no apparent reason for ages. Then I laugh and cry, standing on the rock, a strange feeling – relief, joy, perhaps hope, on top of my world. A bird chirps. Our woods are so big it is fantastic exploring new places and this is another favorite spot for me. The woods are where I belong. Hopefully soon I will no longer have to milk eleven times a week, maybe just four and then I can be outside more and write. I am really close to the road now – I can hear traffic going by. The geography had been undergoing a subtle change the further I walked. Now there was more evidence of this being a bluff.
Though I loved the spot and probably could have lingered forever, I put my notebook away, ambled down off the rock and along the path going a little more to the top of the hill. Subtly the contour of the land turned to the left, and I with it. I must be nearing where Therese and I had walked. I took in the trees and the overall beauty of the woods, allowing the healing power of rocks and trees to wash over me. Maples seemed to dominate. A beautiful basswood. Elms too, I think. Oak. Acorns crunched underfoot. I marveled at a hickory, enjoyed the smell of its fruit, and put a couple in my pocket. I found a walking stick from the myriad lying on the ground, I was in need of the support. Despite my aching body, I enjoyed the trek. There are bits of color in the leaves. A deep red stained some of the oak leaves on a nearby specimen. I could see the road – the downside of these woods. I ambled down the steep sides of a modest ravine, checking out trees with mushrooms. Forest floor is strewn with leaves and sticks. I was stunned by the dryness of the soil – we desperately need rain. I love the smell of autumn; moisture would really draw it out. A log provided a bridge across another ravine. I climbed uphill more but not toward the fence line, headed in a westerly direction. Beautiful patch of ferns. Undergrowth is not very thick here. A few dead trees lie on the ground. A handful of white pine trees gather here. I have often wondered in the past year why I married Jesse, aside from the fact he’s amazing, but why a dairy farmer? – I joked to myself, “this is why!”
An old wire mesh fence ran along the edge of the bluff. I can’t believe they used to allow cows in here. I summit the hill and gaze at the view before me. A deep gorge with a pile of rocks falls away to my right. A ravine plunging into it. I had been expecting to find where Therese and I explored, but wait, is this the ravine where Lexie, Isabel and I stopped? I drew closer. Yes, yes, indeed it was. Now I was even more confused as to where Therese and I had been. I ambled down and up the ravine. Down to the edge, to the dropoff of the bluffside. Yes, that was the trail, those were the two white pine trees. Curious.
Well, I wasn’t sure just how long it would take to return, so I turned to head back. Up the bluff, I climbed, soon breathless and puffing, leaning heavily on my stick despite the stabbing pain in my arms. I walked in the pasture since it was faster – the fastest way would be straight over the hill, through the fields but they were harvesting corn so that would be a very foolish idea. First, I had to figure out where to go under the fence. It was so low, I took off my backpack and camera, and crawled on my hands and knees trying to avoid thistles. Backpack and camera once again on, taking up my stick, I continued along the fence line looking for the gate Therese and I had come to, at the same time admiring the trees that were changing color. Stumbling as I walked in the uneven, tall grass. Thinking to myself how I must have looked – an eccentric naturalist. (Did I mention a machete hung from my backpack?) It was a very long walk back – forty minutes with a side stop to the orchard for an apple which I sat down to enjoy in the backyard, watching the harvest of the sweet corn and corn for silage.