Tag Archive 'walking'

Dec 05 2016

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Snowy Illumination

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snowy-walk-1For days a dismal grey light prevailed as the above-freezing temps slowly melted off Thanksgiving snow. Then this morning we awoke to it: a fresh coat of the white stuff brightening the world. And just in a nick of time for yours truly, sinking into a funk as the days grow shorter and the nights seem to go on forever.

Midday, after doing necessary work and running a few errands, I put on my boots and went for a walk. I kicked up light powder with each step. My dog Matika ran ahead, happy to be out of the house for a change. I slogged down the driveway, along the freshly plowed road, then slipped into the woods.

Snow clung to the branches. Snow kept falling. Snow piled up underfoot, everywhere, but I didn’t mind it. Much better than all that mud brown and sky grey. A winter wonderland? Not how I see the world but, like Matika, I was happy to be out of the house all the same.

Reaching another road, unplowed, I gravitated to the powder to keep from slipping in the packed, icy track of some car that had passed this way. I pulled my hat down around my ears as we turned a corner to face a bitter wind blowing steadily from the west. My eyes teared up. Still better than staying indoors. Plenty of time to thaw out later.

Back into the woods again, closer to home, I suddenly realized how good it felt to be outdoors, moving, and not altogether comfortable.  Hmm…  Explain that to those who have never found the sweetness in a chunk of stale bread, or to those who have never willingly done anything hard.

Note to self: do this more often, only next time head for the hills. Take a real break from the work… or suffer the consequences.

 

 

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Nov 08 2016

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Late Autumn Walk

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late-autumn-woodsEven though I have plenty of work to do, it’s simply too nice a day to stay indoors. I ask my dog Matika if she thinks we should go for a walk and, well, she’s all over it. So we head out.

Not in the mood to drive anywhere, I walk through local woods and along back roads. This isn’t the wild forest I prefer, but it’ll do for now.

With temps reaching into the 60s, shirtsleeves is the way to go. Late autumn light illuminates leaves still clinging to tree branches. At midday the sun is pretty bright. Yet long shadows make it clear what time of year it is.

I kick up a few leaves as I walk. It seems the thing to do. The woods are golden brown. Quite beautiful, actually.

I amble along as if I have all the time in the world. In a way I do. The difference between rushing and not rushing on this two-mile loop is only ten minutes. I can certainly spare that.

Back home, I pour myself a cup of cider to celebrate the season properly. Then I open the windows before setting back to work. But there’s a chill in the air that I hadn’t noticed while walking. The windows won’t stay open long.

 

 

 

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Feb 15 2016

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The Power of Wind

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Lake Champ in FebFeeling cooped up after three days of subzero temps, I went to Kill Kare State Park for a short walk. My dog Matika was just as happy as I was to get out of the house.

I walked the icy road from the park entrance to the parking lot, stepping aside for passing cars as several ice fishermen left the area. Others hunkered down in their shanties, while one hearty soul sat exposed to the elements with his back to the wind. My eyes teared up as a gust of frigid air hit my face.

Walking out to the point, I leaned into a powerful wind blowing from the southwest. With temps rising rapidly, I knew this was a warm front moving in but it sure didn’t feel that way. I buried gloved hands in the pockets of my jacket and pressed forward.

The lake was iced over as far as I could see. Ominous clouds gathered over the Adirondacks. I didn’t stay on the point long. Matika had already turned back and was waiting for me to follow.

Returning to the car, I marveled at that one exposed fisherman on the ice thinking more about fish than comfort. As for me, well, I’d had enough, struggling across the windswept park as if making my way up Everest. If the weather forecasters are right, temps will be well above freezing in another day or two. I’ll go back out then.

 

 

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Dec 17 2015

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A Short Gray Day

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December Rail TrailAfter a productive morning on the computer, I went to the nearby rail trail to stretch my legs and clear my head. The sky overhead was full of clouds so I wasn’t real excited about getting outdoors. But the midday temps were well above freezing. That meant the walk would be pleasant enough.

The sun, hanging low in the southern sky, peeked through the clouds just as I was starting out. That was the last of it, though. A stiff breeze blew in more clouds from the west a few minutes later, obscuring the sun and assuring that it’ll rain this evening.

Here in northern Vermont, the sun rose at 7:24 this morning. It’ll set at 4:12 this afternoon. Yeah, it’s that time of year – a tough time for those of us who are energized by light.

Chickadees flitted through the trees, adding a little cheer to an otherwise dreary day. I flushed a great blue heron from a small brook. My dog Matika was happy just to trot along and sniff around. Watching her, I couldn’t help but wonder if perhaps I think too much.

Nature has its moods. It is best to roll with them, I kept telling myself. So I focused on the warm air, and the clear path underfoot as I walked – a rarity in mid-December. Be grateful for that. The deep cold and heavy snow will come soon enough.

The days will start getting longer in a couple weeks. Until then, I’ll illuminate the tree in my living room as grey light gives way to twilight. In fact, it’s time to do that now. In the absence of the real thing, artificial light will have to do.

 

 

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Oct 28 2015

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A Reflective Walk

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InBkRes LateOctIt’s late in the season now and most of the leaves are on the ground. Brilliant color remains in a few scattered trees but we know it won’t last. November is right around the corner, and here in the North Country that means snow.

I traipse around Indian Brook Reservoir lost in thought. My dog Matika, always in the moment, smiles broadly between her scent investigations. But I am still in work mode from earlier today, wondering what lies in the days ahead, and recollecting all the fun I’ve had since the last time I walked here. Mostly I reflect upon the recent past – upon the pleasant and joyful months of summer when everything was green and the temps are warm. Now the surrounding landscape is golden, as if it has suddenly aged, and there’s a distinct chill in the air.

I too have aged. Pushing 60, I’m thankful for all the blessings that have been bestowed upon me – for all my good fortune through the years. Yet I am weary in a way that a good night’s sleep can’t fix. Is this what it feels like to be growing old? Even though I enjoy life more now than ever, I’ve lost most of my youthful enthusiasm for both work and play.

Yet the world is just as beautiful as it has ever been, and there’s something in the crisp air that makes me glad I’m alive. It’s a paradox to be sure – a riddle I know I can’t solve. So I cut my pace and try to be as much in the moment as my dog. That’s challenging enough.

 

 

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Apr 23 2015

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Slow Bushwhack

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PrestonBk.gorge.early springYesterday I visited a favorite mountain stream, taking a break from work and all other concerns. My dog Matika accompanied me, of course. First stop: a small gorge on the stream, where whitewater squeezed between rock walls on its way down to the already swollen Winooksi River.

Patches of ice clung to the rock walls of the gorge and nearby ferns were still pressed to the ground by snow that had just recently melted. Here in the mountains, the spring season is just beginning.

Above the gorge I meandered upstream following the semblance of a trail cut by deer, as small piles of scat indicated. Eventually I lost even that, finding my own way across the forest floor. I slipped between the trees without any sense of urgency, happy just to be in the woods – a slow bushwhack to nowhere.

As I walked, my thoughts wandered. Or to be more accurate, my thoughts gave way to a series of impressions: the fresh green verdure coaxed from the earth by warmer temps, the rusted remnants of early settlers, and ephemeral rivulets of snowmelt everywhere.

“Walking is not a sport,” Frederic Gros states outright at the beginning of his book, A Philosophy of Walking, though many people treat it that way. Walking slow and solitary, through the woods or in the city, opens the mind to introspection. Many thinkers have had their most profound ideas while walking. I know that is certainly the case with me. I do my best thinking while on the move towards nowhere in particular, slow and steady, with no trail underfoot.  After a while, it becomes a sort of mobile meditation.

A mile or so beyond the gorge, I found a nice spot to sit next to a feeder stream for a while. There my thoughts became more focused even as my eyes still wandered. Matika sat next to me chewing a stick. Time passed. When finally rain clouds gathered overhead, I got up and finished my walk, heading back towards my car. And that,my friends, is what I call a good day in the woods.

 

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Mar 24 2015

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Bare Ground

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bare Rail TrailWith temps hovering around freezing, it hardly feels like spring, but I had a hankering to get outside all the same. I wanted a little bare ground to walk on so I stayed here in the Champlain Valley this morning, leaving the snow-covered mountains for another day. My dog Matika didn’t care where we went as long as we got out of the house.

To my pleasant surprise I found the nearby Rail Trail mostly clear of snow. I hiked down it at a good clip, thoroughly enjoying the traction my boots purchased in the soft gravel underfoot. The few patches of ice that I crossed reminded me how tedious it is getting around in winter – more like skating than walking.

I pressed forward, reveling in the joy of free movement over bare ground. It was something I hadn’t been able to do since last fall. Funny how we miss the simplest things when we can’t do them.

It has been a long, hard winter – one of the coldest in memory. But the remnant snow piles around our driveways are only shadows of their former selves, the days are long now, and the first green shoots of the lilies in front of my house are pushing up through the detritus. Soon the migrating birds will return and the buds of trees will start swelling. Then we’ll all be giddy with vernal delight. It’s inevitable.

 

 

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Aug 25 2014

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Late Summer Walk

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goldenrodA warm summer day. Not a cloud in the sky. After dinner Judy and I go for a walk on the Rail Trail. Our dog Matika is excited by the prospect, having been cooped up in the house all week. She bounds ahead as we amble along the path. Crickets, the smell of cow manure, and a low-hanging sun that sets the surrounding verdure aflame: Vermont at the end of the day in late August.

I look around for blue asters – that unmistakable indicator of the season coming to an end. I don’t see it. Instead I find Queen Anne’s lace, bladder campion, and a few other wildflowers that have filled the fields and lined pathways all summer long. Goldenrod is in its glory, of course. It’s that time of year.

When the trail enters the forest, I sense the air getting warmer. It’s more humid, actually. Both Judy’s eyeglasses and mine fog up. And the mosquitoes come out. No matter. We keep walking.

Having broken a sweat I suggest that we turn around. Judy wants to go a little farther. We go as far as the cluster of houses just beyond the wild, wooded section of the trail. That’s when I find a patch of blue asters barely discernible in the fading light. Yeah, the season is winding down.

On the way back to the car, we spot an owl flying low through the dark woods. It lets out a high-pitched screech after landing on a limb. In the semidarkness all we can see is its silhouette, yet the way that stealthy predator dips its round head is unmistakable. The owl flies off silently into the night.

We catch a sliver of bright orange light on the western horizon while finishing our walk, then relive some of the highlights of our grandkid’s visit as we drive home. It all happened so quickly.

 

 

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Feb 04 2014

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Winter Walking

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Rail Trail, FebA couple months ago, I started a new job about a mile away from home. I’ve been walking to work since then. It’s a welcome change from commuting. All the same, I get the urge every once in a while to walk in more natural surroundings. That’s when I usher my dog Matika into the car and drive to a trailhead.

The Rail Trail is close to home. Even if I drive to my favorite section of it, I can be there in ten minutes. So that’s where I went yesterday, after a round of writing and running a few errands.

I didn’t need snowshoes. Thanks to manic temperatures, most of the snow that has fallen so far this winter has melted away. But walking through a couple inches of the white stuff is much like walking in sand. No matter. I took my time and the walk was pleasant enough.

Regardless what time of year it is, the fresh air and silence work on me like a tonic. Being among trees helps, too, even if they are naked. As anyone who does it regularly will tell you, walking is good for the soul.

I do my best thinking when I’m walking. My indoor thoughts tend to be stinky, downbeat, myopic. But outdoors, on my feet and moving, my thoughts are fresher, more upbeat, expansive. All that circulating blood helps, I’m sure.

I prefer walking in the warmer seasons, but a winter walk is still better than sitting inside all day. Come spring I’ll head for the hills and really stretch my legs. In the meantime, this will do.

 

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Dec 21 2013

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Winter Solstice

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winter woodsToday is the shortest day. Today winter begins. As someone who loves everything green and growing, not to mention daylight, I find this to be a tough time of year. I am not alone in this.

I believe that the holidays were invented to help us cope with the darkness, and to ease the transition into the cold season. Hope, joy, love, and everything warm and bright indoors – we certainly make the best of things, don’t we? I have lights on my house, a decorated tree in my living room, and holiday cards on full display. Yeah, I too take the Winter Solstice seriously.

The other day I went for a walk in the woods. There was enough snow on the ground to cover up the starkness of the landscape and the snow-laden boughs of conifers were easy on the eye. I was chilled at first but exertion got my blood flowing. After a while I started thinking: “This isn’t so bad.”

Oddly enough, winter is the hardest to take when we are struggling to get from our homes to somewhere else by car or some other mode of fast transportation. On foot, in the woods, it’s not so bad at all.

While sitting at home and listening to weather forecasters, it seems like disaster is imminent. The forest tells another story: temperatures rise, then they fall. Storms come, then the sky breaks open. And the seasons cycle round and round.

Winter is nothing to get all stressed out about. Worst case scenario, stay off the road. There’s plenty to do indoors. And when the walls start closing in, go for a walk. If nothing else, it’ll help you appreciate what your furnace or fireplace provides.

 

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