Now shall I walk
or shall I ride?
“Ride,” Pleasure said:
“Walk,” Joy replied.
My colleague, Beth, used to be able to tell when I’d stayed out of the woods too long. She’d look at me and suggest I get my feet in gear. And yesterday I recognized the need myself and called down to my husband to accompany me. We took a long walk around the Weir Hill Reservation in North Andover, MA, one of the Trustees of Reservations properties www.thetrustees.org/. More often than not we were outside of each other’s sight as our paces differed or some treasure pulled us aside for a close up view or a photo op. Weir Hill holds special significance to me; I found my first guinea pig
there, abandoned and left for dead among the September leaves and ferns. It was the week after the 9/11 horror, and I was compelled to revive my battered spirit with a 6 am wilderness refresher (or as much of a wilderness as a suburb can offer). And there in the woods I found hope, and Hope, the name I gave my new guinea pig.
I always look for the twin trees near the beginning of the trail where I found Hope, despite never since (it’s been about 10 years) having found another treasure. I do it more in homage to the critter that changed my outlook on life. Yesterday was no exception, no flash of unnatural color in the leaves, no smoking remnants of Giant Destroyer rodent killer. It was harder to find the trees, though, as I hunted for the cleanest path through an ooze of mud that now forms in that area.
But the day was not without discovery. I found the perfect yellow leaf, a perfect brown leaf and a perfect two-tone leaf. None are eligible to be entered in the 2nd One Perfect Fall Leaf 24 Hour Photo Contest next year, as I am the only ineligible photographer. But I can’t stop looking. I found a small critter’s cache of red berries in a hole in a rotted tree trunk. I discovered that each section of the trail flashed a different color – at this time brown, yellow or red. I rooted for one leaf over another as it raced across the lake surface propelled by hearty gusts. I learned that capturing a falling leaf on camera can have dizzying effects. And, I disappointed every dog I met by the sad fact that I was one of the very few humans unaccompanied by canines. You can see disappointment and wonder on
a dog’s face pretty clearly, a few barked at me in disgust.
And there was one other discovery. Hidden and tangled in the underbrush on the lake’s edge was a raft. Bound together by duct tape I saw a kid’s inflatable tube and the errant logs that were cleared after crashing to the ground and blocking the trails as a result of the recent big storm. This is a reservoir mind
you and boats are discouraged, but in seeing that there I knew I found a kindred spirit, one I’d never meet. I
know exactly how enticing that ride was. In fact I’d asked Jon if he wanted to try it out and we both agreed the adult answer to that question was “no”. It really didn’t seem too sea or make that pond-worthy.
I returned home more grounded and yet lighter than I’ve felt in a while and sorted through my email. There among the ads, jokes and friendly updates was one asking if I could foster another pair of adventurous guinea pigs, Lewis and Clark, for a couple of weeks, the time it would take this boy to re-grow his broken incisors. Seems I’ve been given another chance to honor Hope.
©2011 Alison Colby-Campbell