The trail is muddy. As I walk in the woods, alone yet again, I feel the familiar solitude. It’s comfortable like an old sweater, until something triggers the ache for a hug and the aloneness is instantly palpable. Just then I notice the deer prints before me, and am suddenly appreciative of the endless, subtle wonders always before us. I lean on a huge old poplar, and try to absorb some its silent steady strength. I sense an unequal exchange—as if I’m making a withdrawal and don’t have much to give back today. Mostly the trees and greenery of all shapes and sizes feel happy. Like they’ve been feasting on the loosened nutrients the rains have made available. Everything is glistening as if just emerging from a sauna. A few trees have lost their grip, and been pulled from their heights back to earth, starved by the dry spell then after the showers apparently too loaded to hang on.
Some become trail-blocks. Scaleable hurdles; minor disruptions really. Life constantly offers them. I clamber over and for just an instant lose several decades. Was their fall awkward, like when we flop onto our keister after slipping an an icy patch? Or graceful, maybe a pirouette was involved, and perhaps even a gentle touching of the extended limbs of friends nearby as they swirled to a soft landing in the moss…?) I wonder if their final recline across the human path was a parting gift, to encourage our agility and keep us ready for bigger challenges?
Yet the turkey tail reveals they never really stop giving. Even as they slowly disrobe and disassemble their once solid trunks, all manner of life is being fostered on their decaying bodies, and beyond. Fungi freely and generously offering vast healing and restorative resources for us to boost or recover our own vitality. If only we listen, learn and respectfully participate in this endless dance.
Roots older than me form both soil retainers and steps, making me conscious of my boots pressing on them. I further soften my steps to not disrupt the gentle music of the raindrops flicking leaves on their descent with a backdrop of crickets chirping. Wet leaves radiate gold, silver, and scarlet against the soft pale jade and sea gray boulders. The vividly glowing moss seems to be expanding before my eyes.
A buck races across the path and stops short on the hill just above me. I slow, then stop, and nod at him. He eyes me warily, and then after a pause nibbles at some fresh greens, ears on full alert to my presence. I take in a few deep breaths, and we make eye contact. He steps a few cautious steps downhill. Maybe he smells my slight sweat, or is it my mending heart? He licks his chops, gives me a last look and gracefully heads uphill. My journey, this shared journey, continues, and for this I’m grateful.