Friday, July 06, 2007

Walking upstream

My favorite walk starts with a right turn at the end of my driveway. The left-hand walk is also good, but it's better with company; when I'm walking alone (and often when I'm not) I turn right and follow the road upstream.

At first my road squeezes between the creek and a wooded slope that turns into a steep rocky bluff holding in moisture, shade, and cool air. On the creek side are kingfishers, tiger-lilies, and sycamores, on the steep side ferns and jewelweed (and in the spring, trilliums). The brilliant white blossoming stalks of the black cohosh shine like a beacon in the woods while the blue vervain sends up stalks of deep purple.

Follow the road around a sweeping right-hand curve and then a sharp jog to the left, however, and the terrain suddenly flattens into wide meadows bathed in sunshine. The creek meanders in the distance now beyond the neighbor's hayfield, and instead of jewelweed beside the road I see brown-eyed Susans and Queen Anne's lace and a persistent stand of stonecrop. As soon as I turn the corner I hear a familiar sound and look up: there's that mockingbird perched atop the telephone pole chattering away as usual. Is it the same mockingbird every time or do they take turns?

Soon the road dips down toward the creek again and crosses a bridge and then makes a sharp left to continue upstream, plunging suddenly into thick forest. Red-tailed hawks nest along the creek here, and in the woods I often see pileated woodpeckers or their smaller red-bellied cousins. Walk along a straight stretch to the mile marker and suddenly I'm surrounded by farmland--and it's time to turn around before the farmer's dogs notice me.

Then I turn back and walk through the same changing zones: forest, meadow, creek and bluff, all within a mile of my front door. I take that walk in any season and never get tired of what I see because it's always changing but somehow the same, and I take it with or without company--but I like company, so feel free to come along sometime.

No comments: